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Experts speak: What is ‘Green School FM’?

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The Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Green Schools Programme (GSP) started in 2006 as a way to help schools change the way they consumed resources with its ‘green audit’ — a self-assessment by students of the use of resources, and a mapping of consumption and wastage, under six heads, viz., air, energy, food, land, water and waste, that are measured year-on-year. Over 17 years, its network has expanded to operate in 28 states and six union territories across India, boasting a robust participation of over 8,000 schools.

Neeraj Kumar, Deputy Programme Manager and Tushita Rawat, Programme Manager, Environment Education Unit, CSE simplify the audit process, and showcase stories of sustainably managed schools.

The process

Once a school becomes part of GSP by registering on our website, they embark on a transformative journey that begins with collecting data on their resource consumption. Students actively participate in various hands-on activities within the school premises, meticulously recording data and documenting practices across different sections. After submitting this data to the GSP portal, it undergoes thorough analysis by the Green School Programme team.

Rooftop solar panels at Dr Rajendra Prasad Kendriya Vidyalaya

In the end, each school is given a sustainability rating from red, orange, yellow to green, with red being the least and green being the most sustainable. The ratings are announced in an annual awards ceremony and the schools with the best green practices are felicitated.

Subsequently, schools receive a personalized performance report card that provides a comprehensive assessment and recommendations to maintain and enhance their green practices. Additionally, schools gain access to their own dashboard, allowing them to monitor their year-on-year performance and participate in future audits.

Audit parameters

The Audit team from the school is responsible for collecting data on resource consumption in the school across six different categories: Air, Energy, Waste, Food, Water, and Land. Let’s examine the specific requirements for each section of the Audit.

Air: This section focuses on the school’s air quality and mobility practices. It encompasses ensuring adequate ventilation in classrooms (with a minimum 5% window-to-floor ratio), promoting non-polluting modes of transportation such as walking or cycling, and encouraging the use of sustainable transportation options like school buses, public buses, shared autos/cabs, or two-wheelers.

It also emphasises on the use of clean fuels, such as electric or CNG (if available in the area), while discouraging the use of diesel or petrol vehicles.

Energy: This primarily focuses on energy efficiency, emphasising the use of LED lights instead of incandescent or CFL bulbs, use of solar heaters, utilization of star-rated appliances to minimize energy consumption, and the incorporation of renewable energy sources within the school premises. These renewable energy sources may include solar power, wind energy, biogas and biomass to meet the school’s energy requirements.

Food: This includes examining the canteen and mid-day meal offerings, as well as the specific types of food served. The school’s food promotion strategy encompasses a range of options, including both packaged food items and traditional dishes. The section also highlights the provision of food during events.

Land: The land/biodiversity section includes questions about the total site area, green spaces like landscapes and play areas and the land-use pattern. It also examines the biodiversity, encompassing the flora and fauna, species count, and whether they are native or exotic to the region.

Water: This highlights the school’s commitment to water conservation practices and infrastructure. It evaluates rainwater harvesting initiatives and water recycling measures. Wastewater treatment and reuse within the school premises are also assessed. While not every school will have the capacity to treat wastewater on campus, the section provides points for reusing water as much as possible, harvesting rainwater and decreasing reliance on groundwater. It addresses water storage, supply, and sanitation measures.

Additionally, it emphasises the availability of drinking water taps, urinals and handwash points throughout the school. The per capita water availability for students is also considered.

Waste: The emphasis lies on the various streams of waste produced, recycled/managed and the quantities of each waste stream: wet, dry, domestic hazardous, sanitary, biomedical, electronic, construction & demolition. The audit primarily centers around two aspects: waste segregation at source and the treatment of biodegradable waste within the school premises. It also highlights the recycling of non-biodegradable waste or electronic waste through authorised dealers.

Stories of Change

Thousands of schools assess their resource consumption with GSP Audit every year. Of these, some schools demonstrate exceptional sustainability practices and become trailblazers for other network schools to take inspiration from. Listed below are some green practices by GSP network schools, as per the GSP Audit 2022 data:

Waste Warriors:
Christ Academy CBSE School, Bengaluru, Karnataka

The school is setting an example in waste management. It practices 100% source segregation and recycling with all waste collection points equipped with separate dustbins for wet and dry waste. The school further separates waste into sanitary, electronic and domestic hazardous.

The school uses wet waste to produce biogas, which is used for cooking. More than 2,000 textbooks are collected and reused or recycled every year!

Good Food:
Shiv Nadar School, Noida, Uttar Pradesh

The school has imposed a complete ban on packaged food items on campus. Food wastage in the canteen is tracked every day to determine patterns & solutions to reduce it. Student ‘Food Warriors’ create awareness to reduce wastage.

The school also has a nutritionist on board to ensure a balanced diet and holistic menu. Single-use plastic has been completely eliminated from the canteen; the mid-day meal is served in steel plates. 100% of raw food waste generated in the process of preparing the mid-day meal is composted in-situ and the compost is used to grow seasonal vegetables, with a 5 kg monthly produce on average.

Energy Manager:
Dr Rajendra Prasad Kendriya Vidyalaya, New Delhi

Its campus is 100% solar-powered and does not use any thermal energy. The school is entirely equipped with LEDs, and almost all the population uses sustainable or non-polluting modes of transportation. The school also distributed 50 cycles to meritorious and needy students under the PM Foundation ONGC project to promote a green, clean and pollution-free environment.

Land Manager:
Government Senior Secondary School, Himgiri, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh

The school is located in a water-scarce area where the weather can be so harsh that sometimes, it wipes off a significant portion of the biodiversity. In such a place, the school has managed to restore over 50 plant species and 150 animal species.

The school boasts of 52% green area that is largely maintained by the students. Horticulture waste and wet waste from the mid-day meal are composted to generate 10 kg of produce every month, which in turn, ensures healthy flora.

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