Driving sustainability in international schools

Posted on 9th Apr 2024 in School News, International Education, International Schools

Students from the International School of Düsseldorf are inspired to become environmentally responsible and sustainable global citizens.

Visitors to the International School of Düsseldorf (ISD) Elementary School on any given Friday afternoon may be greeted by the sound of drums, maracas, and song, as the grade 4 and 5 students perform their weekly recycling ritual, Yellow Bin Pick-Up Time (YBPT).

YBPT is a student-initiated scheme, whereby all recyclable waste is collected, and removed by the students themselves. The programme upholds ISD’s mission to ‘inspire students to contribute positively to a sustainable world’, and is named after the large yellow bins used to collect plastic and packaging waste.

While the idea is simple - children separate all waste in the classrooms on a daily basis, empty the recyclable waste into larger bins once a week, and bring them to the front of the school where the Hausmeisters move the bins outside for collection - the programme has multiple benefits, not just for the environment, but also for the school, the Hausmeisters, and the students themselves.

According to ISD teacher and student sustainability mentor, Mr Kyle Shahan, students involved in the programme develop a strong sense of responsibility and climate stewardship: “Seeing first hand the total amount of waste that a school creates can be surprising. Students now question why something is trash, and also ‘rescue’ items that are still in good working condition to be reused or repurposed in our Maker Space or Rescue Café. The direct experience of collecting trash enhances a child’s awareness, and leads to attitudes and behaviours that ‘refuse, rethink, and repair’ our waste, as well as ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’.”

ISD Hausmeister, Mr Jan Golembiewski, agrees: “The student-driven system is 1000 times better! On a campus with nearly 100 rooms, collecting recyclable waste is a big job for one or even two people. Thanks to the students’ involvement, our team saves around an hour each week. We’ve also noticed that students are generally more responsible throughout the entire building because they think more about what they use and what they throw away.”

The YBPT programme is now over a year old and still going strong. The collaboration and leadership demonstrated by the YBPT students has encouraged and motivated others, and the scheme has now expanded to include classroom energy monitors, a Playground Squad, and has led to the establishment of The ISD Earth Rescue Club.

The yellow bins themselves were originally purchased in 2019 as the result of a classroom action by four grade 4 students. They noticed a lack of plastic recycling in classrooms, and wanted to make a change. They raised money through bake sales and other activities, and spent time during lunch break and after school planning the roll-out of their project.

The four girls, now in grade 8, are understandably proud of their achievement: “We are all really happy that the Elementary School still has the yellow bins and that they are now being used for Yellow Bin Pick-Up Time, and that other grade 4 students are taking responsibility for sorting and recycling waste and helping our school, our Hausmeisters, and our planet.”

To learn more about the various sustainable initiatives at ISD please visit: www.isdedu.de/about-us/sustainability

This article first appeared in the 2023/24 edition of John Catt's Guide to International Schools, which you can read here: