Eco team finalists for huge prize - UWC ISAK Japan

Eco team finalists for huge prize

Written by Pema (Bhutan / Class of 2022)

The school’s environmental club has been shortlisted for the Zayed Sustainability Prize, an annual $600,000 award that is split between six winning schools.

Towards a more eco-friendly campus

The Grade 12 students propose installing energy and water-saving equipment at the school campus, including a biomass boiler, solar panels and rainwater tanks.

They are competing against two schools for the $100,000 East Asia share of the prize. The rival finalists are a language school in Shanghai, which proposes growing organic food, and a high school in the Philippines, which aims to reduce fish losses from aquaculture ponds.

A student-led initiative

ISAK’s Sustainable School Initiative is working to make the school sustainable and environmentally conscious.

“When I first came to ISAK I was disappointed about the energy source and people’s attitude towards sustainability,” member Manami Ito said.

To change that, she and other motivated individuals met once a week during dinner in an initiative called Thursdays for Tomorrow.

Raising awareness on and off-campus

TFT started to work on raising awareness about climate change on campus and achieving the ultimate goal of changing the school’s culture and creating lessons students can take back home to their countries. 

“Back home, (there is) lots of food waste, no composting and waste management because Thailand does not have that,” said Thai student Mymy Phuamom.

With the help of faculty member Mandy Heddle, TFT held various presentations about climate change for the student body and organized an event for Earth Hour, an annual switching-off of lights worldwide.

Leading with others

Meanwhile, the initiative was also searching for ways to change the school’s physical infrastructure and find alternative sources of energy. After some searching, the initiative formed a partnership with Earth Company, a global non-profit organization working on creating a sustainable community based on green startups.

Earth Company took a mentorship role and guided the sustainability team as ISAK as its first partnership with a school, under the guidance of Yo-san and Tomo-san,who were vital in forming connections with other environmentally conscious groups such as bathroom manufacturer Lixil, with whom the initiative installed solar panels on top of the gym.

Taking action a step further

Then Heddle informed them about the Zayed Sustainability Prize. The team decided to apply.

“It was a lot of workload as we had final exams at the time,” said Ina Loka. “But we really enjoyed it because it was something we were passionate about.”

A camera crew from Tokyo spent two days at the campus in November profiling the club for the awards ceremony.

A story to be continued

This year, Thursdays for Tomorrow fused with the Sustainable School Initiative as part of the new club system. With Andrew Boukaseff mentoring, SSI meets on Mondays after school.

The members are as committed as ever. They have reorganized the team into three departments: advocacy, waste management and energy.

Their next project is to install compost bins for each residential house. Prizewinners or not in Abu Dhabi, their legacy at ISAK is assured.

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