Thursday, September 23, 2010

China’s Green School Projects

Compared to schools in North America, Europe and Australia, Chinese schools are much less invested in sustainability. Only a tiny fraction of Chinese schools have sustainable curriculums and fewer still comply with LEED building standards. By the end of 2009, only 2,175 of China's 29,000 government buildings and large public buildings had undergone energy audits.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that, when calculated per person, the average footprint in China is five times smaller than the average footprint in America. According to Global Footprint Network, when assessed as a function of global hectares per capita, China has an ecological footprint of 1.8 gha/pers, while the US has an ecological footprint of 9.0 gha/pers.

American students have a larger footprint than Chinese students. In Chinese dorms, there are more people in less space than at American dorms. Chinese students also use less energy intensive resources (like hot water) than their American counterparts. Finally, most Chinese don't own cars, whereas in America, cars are common even amongst students.

The Chinese Government, student organizations and educators are working to increase the presence of green schools in China. Student movements like the China Youth Climate Action Network are trying to convince Chinese colleges to reduce their emissions by 20 percent by 2012.

The Chinese government is getting involved through efforts like China’s Green School Project, an initiative of the Ministry of Education of China (MOE), funded by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). China’s Green Schools Program started in 1996 and is based on the ISO standards and has also been informed by European ‘Eco-schools‘.

The program’s key focus includes whole-school environmental management and protection, EE curriculum and professional development, and greening of school grounds. Schools have to comply with criteria to receive government awards and since the program's inception, tens of thousands of schools have received awards.

The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) is also helping Chinese schools prepare the next generation of Chinese citizens. The Education for Sustainable Development program is led by a three-way partnership between educators in China, Japan, and the US. Together, they are adapting cutting edge practices in sustainable development education to the Chinese context. They are developing a series of activities that encourage student involvement. This experience will inform a new curriculum on sustainable development that will benefit children in all three countries.

Although at an early stage of development, with the help of the international community, Chinese schools are getting greener.

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