Global Dimensions: A Sustainable School Partnership Growing in Taiwan

I was very fortunate to be offered the opportunity to travel on a US EPA mission to Taiwan this week with our partners from Sustainable Jersey, Donna Drewes and Randy Solomon, and Justin Harris from the US EPA International and Tribal Affairs division.  The purpose of the trip was to meet with Taiwanese governmental and private sector personnel to discuss what a sustainable community and sustainable schools program might look like and how it could be implemented.

We met several times with so many incredible people in the Taiwanese Environmental Protection Administration (called EPAT) as well as those in the sustainable development and environmental education communities there. Minister Stephen Shu-hung Shen (the counterpart to Lisa Jackson, our US EPA Administrator) was generous with his time and very dedicated to ensuring that we are able to forge a partnership between the US and Taiwan on sustainable communities and schools through establishing “sister” communities in New Jersey and in key Taiwan cities such as Taipei and New Taipei City.  Minister Shen said on multiple occasions, that he “looks forward to our continuing support, and during the Year of the Dragon, hope to have more partners join us in making our Mother Earth cleaner and more sustainable.”

It’s true what they say that it is, indeed, a small world, with multiple connections through common colleagues in the environmental education community and a shared desire to advance environmental literacy – not only in students, but in the broader community as well.

The work that Taiwan is doing on Low Carbon Communities (big PDF) is truly striking and an example that I wish could be replicated here in the United States.  A good starting point is the amazing work that Sustainable Jersey is doing through a program that they’ve developed on municipality certification that focuses on ways that municipalities work collaboratively in a public, private partnership to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term.

In Taiwan (L-R: Donna Drewes, Randy Solomon, Laura Hickey, Minister Shen, Justin Harris)
Our plan is to work with Sustainable Jersey to integrate a K-12 school certification program based on Eco-Schools USA into their frameworkand then offer that to schools in New Jersey.  We would then work collaboratively with the many wonderful people we met in Taiwan on adapting this framework to sister communities and schools in that country.

I’m excited about the unlimited possibilities that these strategic partnerships with Sustainable Jersey, Taiwan and  the US EPA afford us as we broaden our “Global Dimensions” and make those connections with schools, communities NGOs, and governments country to country and city to city, especially in how we work together to “make our Mother Earth cleaner and more sustainable.”