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Green efforts pay off slowly

Dubai: The UAE has a lot of world records to its name. This, unfortunately, includes being consistently the world's number one ecologically wasteful country.

For the past 14 years, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has produced the Living Planet Report, a biennial study detailing the global ecological footprint chart, which the UAE has dominated each time. This year, however, is the exception.

From number one, the UAE has dropped to number three, with Qatar and Kuwait as the first and second placers respectively.

The UAE's pro-active measures to reduce waste generation, investment in sustainable power generation projects, and efforts to find efficient ways in using water and other resources are slowly paying off. But beyond the numbers, it is some of the residents' individual efforts to efficiently manage scarce resources that Gulf News finds deserving of merit today.

Largest network

Take for example the 30 schools in the UAE that have participated in the Eco-Schools programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an international non-government organisation that promotes sustainable development through environmental education.

Currently, 52 countries participate in the Eco-Schools programme making it the largest global network of students and teachers.

In the UAE, Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF) launched the Eco-Schools programme in 2010 through the HSBC Eco-Schools Climate Initiative.

"Eco-Schools empowers students to take action to reduce their schools' environmental impact by engaging whole schools, with students taking the lead in reducing energy, water and waste," Rashmi De Roy, senior manager for education at the EWS-WWF, told Gulf News.

Stressing the importance of providing support to environmental initiatives, Ammar Shams, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability of HSBC Bank Middle East, said: "We not only financially support this programme, but also provide volunteers to work alongside the schools to help them reduce their carbon footprint. Specifically, the programme enables schools to enhance their local surroundings, save money and encourages student- teacher dialogue about the environment."

STEP1: Eco-Schools Committee:

This committee, composed of a representative from each sector in the school, plans, supervises and directs the Eco-Schools programme.

STEP2: Environmental Review

This involves scrutinizing the school's current environmental situation to determine if change is "necessary, urgent, or not required at all."

STEP3: Action Plan

The Action Plan is made using the results of the Environmental Review by setting achievable and realistic targets and deadlines.

STEP4: Monitoring and Evaluation

With the Action Plan in place, the Eco-School must continuously monitor and evaluate its progress.

STEP5: Curriculum Linking

These eco-friendly initiatives must be weaved into the curriculum as well. School activities must be infused with environmental education concept.

STEP6: Involving the wider community

Being environmentally conscious should not just be practised within the four corners of the classroom but also be done in the wider community.

STEP7: Eco-Code

The Eco-Code contains the Eco-School's mission statement that should be known by everyone in the school.

The seven-step methodology is based on ISO 14001, the International Organisation for Standardisation document that defines requirements for an Environmental Management System and provides guidance for its use. Once all these requirements are met, the Eco-Schools may apply for the Green Flag which is an internationally acknowledged eco-certification for good environmental practice. The Green Flag must be renewed every two years on the basis of enhanced environmental practice.

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