Whether students are running projects about water conservation, cleaning local beaches or examining the carbon footprint of their campus, their enthusiasm and commitment to sustainability is very clear.
Parents, staff and students at American School of The Hague came together as a group three years ago to formalize their individual teaching, learning and project work in the area of sustainability. All grade levels were busy with age-appropriate lessons and projects and student-led activities related to topics such as water, energy, transportation and health. The next step was how to document all of their activities, share their knowledge and continue to promote and strengthen a sustainable way of living. The school decided to centralize their efforts under the Dutch EcoSchools organization and were rewarded Bronze and Silver awards over a two-year period, ultimately receiving the EcoSchools Green Flag – the highest achievement – this year. EcoSchools Nederland awarded the school its Green Flag at a ceremony attended by the entire student population (aged 3-18) of 1,200 students, their parents and teachers. This was after a rigorous audit by the organizers and representatives of EcoSchools in the Netherlands.
Becoming an EcoSchool allows the school to realize values and practices of sustainable action within the daily function of the school’s operations. This is the highest award level that can be reached, an international standard for sustainable schools. Worldwide, 14,000 Green Flags have been awarded and 40,000 participant schools in 58 countries around the world are currently working towards their Green Flag status. This special status is only awarded to schools that comply with a tough 7-step program that allows them to demonstrate that they have embedded sustainability into their curriculum and their daily operations.
Keeping the Green Flag is as important as earning it; it requires a long-term commitment to sustainability, to maintaining good habits and keeping sustainability at the forefront of our daily lives. In support of that, the EcoSchool Committee at the school has developed an Eco-code by which all members of the school community at American School of The Hague (ASH) are encouraged to work and live:
Energy – The ASH community believes all design and development elements of current and future ASH facilities should contain sustainable elements that aim to reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint. Our community will encourage and inspire daily habits aimed at instilling a sustainable culture in daily life and beyond.
Litter – The ASH community stands behind a clean environment as this promotes the environmental health of our local eco-systems.
Recycling – The ASH curriculum and programs aim to increase awareness about recycling opportunities in our school and our local community. Recycling is our individual and collective responsibility. Information aimed at assisting the implementation of good recycling habits will be provided to ASH and the wider community.
Water – ASH believes humans should be mindful in our use of resources, as they are precious. Water is one such resource. Our community should understand and respect our fortunate position in Holland with an abundance of clean, fresh water. With that, comes a responsibility to educate ourselves and to share our knowledge with the global community.
Transport – The ASH community supports local initiatives that encourage the use of bicycles, foot and public transportation. We encourage everyone within a 10-minute radius of ASH to travel by foot or bicycle. We will educate the community as to the health, cost and convenience benefits associated with traveling by foot, bicycle and public transportation.
Health – The ASH community encourages healthy living. We strive to educate our community and stimulate healthy choices and balanced lifestyles.
Bio-diversity – The ASH community will embrace bio-diversity, be respectful of our natural environment and encourage regular interaction with nature. We will work to reduce the impact we have on our natural environment and stimulate the mindset that we are custodians of our planet.
School Grounds – The ASH school grounds are a part of us. Our campus reflects who we are and how we choose to interact with our environment.
With more than 1,200 students and a strong parent body working alongside the faculty and administration towards these objectives, great change is already underway at the school and in people’s homes. We watch with continued interest.