Dubai eco warrior children awarded with school green flag status

Eleven schools received the internationally recognised green flag in the latest round of the UAE’s Eco-Schools programme.

Pupils and staff at a photo booth session at the Green Flag Awards ceremony on Wedneasday. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // The next generation of eco warriors in UAE schools has been rewarded for their inventive ideas to improve their environmental credentials.

Eleven schools received the internationally recognised green flag in the latest round of the country’s Eco-Schools programme, in partnership with the Emirates Wildlife Society, the Ministry of Education and HSBC Bank Middle East.

Ideas included switching off air conditioning to save on electricity, swapping grass for an artificial alternative to reduce water consumption and a garbage monster competition to inspire children to design recycling bins.

At a ceremony at Knowledge Village, Dubai each school was presented with a flag to fly from the school grounds. The accolade is awarded to schools that have taken seven steps towards sustainability and demonstrated measurable improvements in conservation of resources.

Under the pupils’ leadership, schools found simple ways to reduce consumption and succeeded in cutting water use by an average of 41.6 per cent, and energy consumption by an average of 17 per cent.

Schools take on the challenge of curbing carbon emissions in three areas: energy, water and waste. To win the award, they must first establish an eco-schools committee, then conduct an environmental review and produce an action plan. Monitors check that the project links to the school curriculum and involves the wider community. An eco-code is then generated to create the school’s green mission statement.

Ras Al Khaimah Academy was recognised for its efforts to improve recycling in a fun way the children would remember.

Celine Macarthur, the school’s deputy headteacher, said: “We got involved as there was little understanding and no recycling or sustainability in the primary school. We started by running a competition called garbage monster to get kids involved by designing their own recycling bins. We found that waste was our biggest problem in school.

“We are encouraging positive action to get the children thinking about what they are doing. It is very fulfilling to see them understand why they are doing what they are doing.”

The school contacted the local sailing association to turn old boats into gardens planted with indigenous plants. And water bottle machines were removed from the school to encourage children to refill rather than replace.

Briton Natasha Haque, a geography teacher at Emirates International School, Dubai, said: “We decided to target areas to reduce electricity use, like switching off air conditioning in non-core areas during off-peak times.

“In terms of saving water, we replaced our grass pitch with AstroTurf.

“The students were involved in campaigns to reduce litter on fields and were involved in community groups to discuss reducing water use and recycling.”

HSBC has sponsored the programme by funding workshops and in-school assessments, as well as providing resources and funding for projects such as awareness campaigns or planting new trees.

Ajita Nayar, education programme manager at the Emirates Wildlife Society, said: “Educating students on green issues is so important.

“But they must also implement these sustainability projects. We asked each school to draw up a proposal, similar to a business plan, to assess each application for funding for their eco ideas.”