For two years, Patrick Ledoit led a team to reduce plastic from his school’s snack bar. They researched green alternatives and met with suppliers and purchasing staff. They succeeded in switching from plastic to cassava cups to pack smoothies in.
In the process, the 15-year-old learned more about the environment and what it takes to be a leader. Before he joined Bangkok Patana School’s Student Environmental Committee, Patrick was just a regular student. Today, the current co-president of SEC, having gained “first-hand experience” at the hard work needed for something to change, is on his way to becoming a change-maker.
All this would not have been possible without the teachers and staff at Bangkok Patana School, he said.
“The teachers and staff play a major role in helping the students, eg. certain staff take part in projects and committees. They also give a sense of reality and the possibility for change, because we can see teachers wanting the same thing as us,” Patrick said.
Bangkok Patana School is a stellar example of developing budding environmentalists and eco-conscious citizens through education. The British international school in Thailand has made tremendous efforts in instilling eco-friendly habits in children by engaging them in activities where they develop first-hand knowledge.
It’s a strategy that bodes well for today’s youth, who are more environment-conscious and inspired by activists like Greta Thunberg – the students at Bangkok Patana School are no different. Instead of dismissing their passions, the School supports and encourages them every step of the way.
After all, it’s essential that they learn how to cultivate sustainable habits from an early age.
Moreover, it complements their academic studies and spurs personal growth. Research from Stanford University found clear evidence that environmental education in K-12 schools provide a variety of benefits – this includes improving academic performance, enhancing critical thinking skills, as well as developing personal growth and life-building skills, including confidence, autonomy, and leadership.
It also prepares them for future working environments where sustainability and eco-friendly practices will be adopted in practically every industry.
Bangkok Patana School prepares students for this future through many initiatives. The most successful among them has been their student-led Student Environmental Group (SEC) – made up of four different sub-groups that focus on specific areas.
These are Energy, Events, Green Procurement Policy, and Tree Group, where students actively work on innovative projects.
These projects have seen plenty of success in the past. For example, there used to be a plastic reduction group – but it has since been phased out because there is now so little plastic being used in the school.
Student-led activities reducing carbon footprint
The Events group is working on Waste Less Weeks (WLW), an annual event at the school where the entire community tests certain eco-conscious initiatives such as no plastic bottles in the school snack shops and using biodegradable cups for smoothies.
They are also looking at the use of printed worksheets at school, by collecting data on which faculties use worksheets the most, then conducting a survey with students to determine how much they see them as an effective learning tool.
During these Waste Less Weeks, the students asked faculty who use worksheets the most to cut down on their use and explore alternative avenues.
Previously, the Events group also successfully banned single-use plastic water bottles from the school’s Fun Day – an event that hosts approximately 3,500 people. It brought on a chain effect, leading to food vendors switching to biodegradable containers and a reduction in plastic shopping bags used at the event.
Recently, students have been trying out Meatless Mondays – where school canteens provide one less meat dish and an extra vegetarian dish – a small move that could lead to big savings in greenhouse gas emissions. According to a study in Scientific Reports last year, if everyone in the US substituted a quarter of their consumption of beef, pork, and poultry with plant proteins, this could potentially save about 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
There is also Finish It Friday – an initiative to encourage students to finish all the food they put on their plates.
As for students in the Energy Group, they are working on a Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots project to provide solar energy to Pang Bua village in Northern Thailand.
Previously, they worked on a school project encouraging members of the school community to keep their air conditioners at 25 degrees Celsius or above to save energy. They put up signs near the air conditioner control units to remind faculty and students, such as a picture of a polar bear in melted ice with a slogan asking “Do you really need the aircon that cold?”.
Contributing to a sustainable future
Students in the Tree group are working on reducing the school’s carbon footprint by planting trees on a plot of land.
Currently, they are surveying the school grounds to identify areas where they can plant trees, in addition to researching the best trees to plant and at what density they should be planted
As for students in the Green Procurement Policy, they are working on standards that can be viably used by the school in order to vet vendors who are not as environmentally-friendly as they should be.
Besides students in the SEC, students of all ages are given opportunities to work on sustainable projects that allow them to develop an eco-conscious mindset too.
For example, children in Year 2 are busy making Eco Bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with used paper that can be eventually used to form strong and supportive walls for the vegetable beds in the roof garden.
When asked why it’s important for students to care about the environment, Patrick said: “I believe that we are responsible for our planet as well as our communities, to preserve them for the future generations.”
He added: “Sustainability is integral to our responsibility as we must see the effects of our actions. It is clear that we have come a long way in terms of awareness, but there remains a long way to go action-wise too.”
While it’s true there is still much to do, the eco-friendly concepts and implementation of these initiatives at Bangkok Patana School put the school at the forefront of the tackling climate crisis. More importantly, they are inspiring students to become the change they want to see in the world.