A day to savour. I had the distinct honour of being part of a panel to close the 2014 Independent Schools Bursars’ Association (ISBA) conference to discuss and debate Sustainability, resource management and education. The company was outstanding. Hosted by Lucy Siegle (that Lucy Siegle) it comprised of a Bursar, two energy experts and Charles Secrett and me, Head of a small prep school. August company, and, putting my imposter syndrome to one side, I was very proud to have been asked by ISBA and to be (possibly) the only Head in the conference centre.
The discussion ranged across the meaning of sustainability, through the value of investment in sources of renewable energy to an understanding of the imperative of systems thinking in developing a sustainability strategy. It was clear from the responses the audience gave to our pre-arranged questions (via a voting system) that there is still an overwhelming belief that sustainability=energy management. However, there is a very real sense that this is viewpoint is shifting and several Bursars articulated their own school’s experiences of change. There is a lot of really good practice and lot of opportunity to develop innovative solutions and the conference allowed these to be shared.
Projects to develop more efficient and economical solutions to energy our energy needs are of huge benefit to schools. However, we must also keep in mind the impact that ALL sustainability-focused activity brings to schools. Recycling, waste reduction, Fairtrade campaigns, school partnerships, all contribute to the broader understanding of what sustainability is and potentially can be. It is most important to try, to contribute, to send a message to the community that through action, no matter how small, you are starting to make a difference.
David W Orr writes about the importance of place as an educational tool, particularly in terms of ecological design. Through understanding this “contextual learning” we can provide our communities, and therefore the children who are our focus, a place that exemplifies sustainable principles in school development, learning and resource management. Learning “about” sustainability occurs “through” sustainability. And ultimately this leads us to an education “for” sustainability.