Based on the essay by Sophie Bathurst (Australia/Germany) who is one of the eight finalists of The World Bank Essay Competition 2009.
In schools across the globe students are made to realize the importance of walking to school, as it is not only a very healthy form of exercise but also as it reduces our carbon footprint. However, parents are often reluctant to implement it as they are mostly too busy to accompany their kids and can’t allow them go alone on the dangerous city streets. The idea of a Walking School Bus, as suggested by Sophie, is one of the most innovative and effective ideas that I’ve come across in a long time. She also suggests that we should have Walking School Bus drivers to ensure the safety of the primary school students on the streets and even designated Walking School Bus Stops! I feel the sight of primary schools students walking in a group to school will certainly inspire older generations.
This idea is part of Sophie’s vision of having “green schools.” The lifestyles of citizens have resulted in very high per capita emissions in some countries. We do realize that we need to be more climate-friendly and reduce our carbon footprint. It is also imperative that humans imbibe these positive habits from a very young age, so that subsequent generations do not repeat the same mistakes.
To implement this, the schools will have to play an important role. Sophie suggests that the “green schools” projects should be coordinated by a Green Task Force comprising unemployed youth (participating in the “Work for the Dole” scheme in her country, Australia) and other young volunteers.
Sophie’s “green schools” will also have vegetable gardens and will educate students about carbon emissions resulting from the long distance food has to travel –from farm to the fork –thus, the importance of locally cultivated fresh food.
Having participated in Australia-wide events such as ‘National Tree Day,’ she has observed that most of the saplings do not survive more than six months. To prevent this, the “green schools” initiative will establish partnerships with local businesses to sponsor a tree. The concerned school will get various incentives if the tree survives a year.
The Task Force members of the “green schools” project will also organize Green Expos at the schools, which will promote energy saving products and green services among the general public. The Expo can also generate revenue by offering advertising opportunities and the profits can be used to finance other green initiatives.
A child can teach a lot to the entire family. I feel that if a person notices his/her child adopting practices to mitigate pollution, like walking to school, he/she too will be directly inspired to do his part. The “green school” initiatives can prove to be instrumental in promoting “ecologically compatible lifestyles,” as Sophie puts it.