Eco-Schools in Edinburgh: National Operators Meeting Convenes in Scotland

This week, Eco-Schools USA is reporting to you from Scotland!

Associate Director Liz Soper and I are in Edinburgh for the Eco-Schools National Operators Meeting.  Tough duty, I know.  Edinburgh is a lovely place to be for this year’s meeting of the national operator representatives, hailing from from 47 countries.  Not all 51 Eco-School program host countries were able to attend this year. 

Edinburgh, home to the Eco-Schools Scotland program operated by Keep Scotland Tidy, is a lovely city – with buildings and a history so much older than anything in the United States.  What is also nice is renewing old friendships and seeing operators of the Eco-Schools program from many diverse countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Japan, Slovenia, the Dominican Republic, and Kazakhstan

Day One: HSBC and Green Flag awardees

Thursday’s meetings centered on the HSBC Climate Initiative and included visits to local Green Flag-winning schools .  HSBC, the international bank, supports our work to educate Chicago and Buffalo-area K-12 students, teachers, and corporate volunteers on climate change issues and the Eco-Schools USA framework.  NWF and Eco-Schools USA are in the second year of this grant and we are making headway.  What’s interesting to hear about is how different countries implement the initiative on their home-turf, and the challenges and opportunities it represents. 

The HSBC Climate Initiative in South Africa

In South Africa, for example, not every school has electricity, so they use wood to cook their school lunches; the national operator there, WESSA, works with the schools and uses HSBC funding to supply solar cookers, thereby reducing the carbon emissions associated with deforestation and wood-burning fires.  How very different than what we are doing in the USA, yet equally as important and valuable. 

Visit to a Scottish Eco-School

I was lucky enough to visit Hermitage Park Primary School, a 100 year old elementary school in the heart of Edinburgh.  The school has received two Green Flag Awards – their first in 2008, and the second this year.  Every aspect of the school integrates environmental education, from the kindergarten-aged toddlers to the 7th graders – each class, teacher and hallway proclaims the school’s commitment to taking sustainable actions to support the environment. 

The Hermitage  school has a pollinator raised bed garden, recycling of everything imaginable, and an eco-news bulletin board in every class.  Students study biodiversity and endangered species and habitats, like the rainforest.  The kids are integral to the process – they understand why this is important, and so do the school administrators and the Scottish government.  That’s why each of the 300 primary schools in Edinburgh are Eco-Schools.  A truly remarkable accomplishment and one we hope to emulate at home with Eco-Schools USA.

Stay tuned, there is more to come – we will be getting into the nuts and bolts of Green Flag certification, which should be a very instructive and educational discussion for countries new to the Eco-Schools process, like the United States.