November 27, 2015

Sustainability FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Sustainability

The Frequently asked questions page aims to answer your questions about the general field of sustainability, and about what it means to bring sustainability into a school. Please navigate the FAQs to learn more, and email Director of Sustainability: Andra Yeghoian with any additional questions.

General Sustainability Questions

Sustainability in Schools


General Sustainability Questions

1) What does sustainability really mean?

“…Making sure the current generation can meet its needs while at the same time making sure future generations can meet their needs…” - Brundtland Report (1987)

The most well known definition of sustainability comes from the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Report: Our Common Future, which says: “…Progress should not come at the expense of future generations by warming the climate, reducing bio-diversity, depleting forests, increasing pollution, or reducing the resource base. All change should be in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations…”

This extension of the Golden Rule through time means recognizing that the earth has limits – limited resources, limited arable land, limited water, etc. – and unlimited growth within a finite system cannot be sustained forever. Therefore, the sustainability movement is all about finding new ways to live so that we (planet, animals, people) can go on living together forever.

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2) What is the difference between “sustainable” and “green”?

Are “environmentalism” and “being green” the same thing as sustainability? These three ideas are often used interchangeably, but “being green” is more of a principle of using practices or products that are less harmful to people, animals, plants, and other natural systems. Additionally, “Environmentalism” is more of a lens that brings to mind forests and rivers, or climate and animals, but not always people. What makes sustainability different is that it takes a whole-systems approach.

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3) Are there frameworks that explain sustainability as a whole systems approach?

Sustainability frameworks have come about to help people create a shared understanding of what the practice of living sustainably really looks like in the big picture. These frameworks are often paired with principles that provide guidance on how to live sustainably. Below are some of the most well-known frameworks.

Nested Triple Bottom Line

The Nested Triple Bottom Line framework recognizes that the health of our economy and society rely on the health of our environment. In other words, if our planet is suffering, our societies will begin to suffer as well, and when our societies suffer, our economy struggles. Therefore, in order to have a thriving economy and strong cultural societies, we must take care of our environment.

The Natural Step

The Natural Step (Developed in Sweden in 1989) is a framework grounded in scientific research that connects human behavior to natural laws through four “Systems Conditions.”
1) We cannot dig up stuff from the earth at a rate faster than it can replenish.
2) We cannot make stuff faster than it takes to naturally break down.
3) We cannot cause destruction to the planet at a rate faster than it can re-grow.
4) We cannot do things that cause others to not be able to fulfill their basic needs.

Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint (credited to William Reese in 1992), is a tool that quantifies the average amount of land needed per person to provide the resources and ecosystem services they use. This can be calculated at the individual or national level. Ex: If everyone lived like people in North America we would need 4 planets.

Herman Daly’s Triangle

Economist Herman Daly shows in his framework that the environment is the basis for all human activity. The environment provides the sources from which humans get all their materials and energy. Additionally, the natural environment sink is where humans dispose of these materials and energy when they are done. Daly’s framework demonstrates that without the natural environment, there can be no human economy or well-being.

Natural Capitalism

Natural Capitalism recognizes that the economy is dependent on natural resources and the ecosystem services that nature provides (a.k.a “natural capital”). These services are of immense economic value, yet current practices fail to take them into account. Natural Capitalism accounts for the cost of these services.

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Sustainability in Schools

What is a Sustainable (or Green) School?

“Building the capacity for sustainable future oriented thinking is a key task of education” – Koichiro Matsurra

When it comes to schools, people often use the terms “green” and “sustainable” interchangeably. Therefore, a sustainable school (green school, eco-school, or high performing school) is one that embeds sustainable practices into the 4 Cs: campus (facilities), curriculum, community (internal and external) and gets to the point where sustainability becomes institutionalized in the culture (mission, decision making, etc.).
While bringing sustainability into a school can feel like a big challenge or change, the overwhelming benefits of being a sustainable school (green school) are so exciting: economically the efficiency facility improvements saves schools money, the curriculum shifts strengthen student achievement (both for test scores and passion for learning), and the site and communities are all around better for student and employee health.

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What is Education for Sustainability, and what are other Related Movements?

Over the course of the last 100 years there have been many different forms of “schooling for sustainability” and bringing environmental awareness into education (see table below), but the most all encompassing movement is Education for Sustainability (EfS), or as it is known internationally, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). EfS and ESD are defined by the Cloud Institute for Sustainable Development as, “a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve the economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend.”

EfS/ESD also seeks to engage students in the following skills: envisioning a better future, critical thinking and reflection, systems thinking, participatory decision making, and collaborative partnerships. All of these skills allow students to become the change that we need and want to see in the world.

Environmental Education

Environmental Education, is a learning process that increases people’s knowledge and awareness about the environment and associated challenges, develops the necessary skills and expertise to address the challenges, and fosters attitudes, motivations, and commitments to make informed decision and take responsible action.

Environmental Literacy

Environmental Literacy means that students will: demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the environment and the circumstances and conditions affecting it (particularly relating to air, climate, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems); demonstrate knowledge and understanding of society’s impact on the natural world; Investigate and analyze environmental issues, and make accurate conclusions about effective solutions; take individual and collective action towards addressing environmental challenges.

Holistic Education

Holistic Education highlights the importance of an individual’s mental and physical health, and is concerned with nurturing healthy, whole, curious persons. It is education for a culture of peace, for sustainability and ecological literacy, and for the development of humanity’s inherent morality and spirituality.

Outdoor & Experiential Education

Outdoor education is a means of curriculum extension and enrichment that takes place in the outdoors. Experiential education is a process through which a learner constructs knowledge, skill, and value from direct experiences. Both emphasize the student experience in the outdoors as a path towards becoming more environmentally aware and more self-aware, and will teach us about the relationships needed to live more sustainably.

Place-Based Education

Place Based Education (PBE) immerses students in local cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, as s foundation for learning in all subject areas. PBE emphasizes service learning.

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November 23, 2015

O’Dowd Solar Project Wins Project of the Year

Solar Builder magazine has awarded O’Dowd’s roof-mounted solar panel project the Project of the Year Award. The project combines sunshades for classrooms and solar panels for electricity. Read more…

November 20, 2015

Transforming Lives – Claire

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Holiday Thank You – From All Of Us

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November 19, 2015

Sojourn to the Past

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Payton Silket’s life was changed when he took this amazing tour, so he got the school involved.

Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes

When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.) Over 5.7 million views. Read more…

Students Visit Garfield Center

“This trip was really great! It was interesting to see how technology is being incorporated into health care everywhere, and how you can see your doctor even when you are not there. I loved seeing all of the ideas still in progress and the ideas that are now a reality. This trip was very inspiring and educational! Thank you for the opportunity!”              
-Hannah White, Sophomore
“My favorite thing that I saw was the OR because I have never been into one before and that is where I dream of working. The technology was inspiring to me because it shows how the world is evolving to help patients and the efficiency in the medical world. Coming here inspired me to pursue this dream because by the time I have a career, great innovations will be put to use.”
-Julie Truong, Junior
“My favorite thing from my visit to the Garfield Center was seeing the new technological developments in medicine. For example, the tags on the rags so none are left behind during surgeries. Also how widely spread the innovations were, from colors of the wall, to type of flooring, to lighting, to location of objects in the room. Everything I have seen has only made me more interested in the medical field.”                                                    
-Zoe Appel, Junior
“The various robots we met were very interesting to see. It’s so futuristic, like, to imagine that robots will just be rolling around the hospital and helping out. The patient simulators seem like such a great educational tool with such advanced technology!”                   
-Dana Angeles, Junior
“I really liked seeing all of these innovative technologies and being exposed to my future occupation. Knowing that I’ll be in the workforce with all of these great technologies was encouraging and gave me something to look forward to. The visit made me think more creatively about medical solutions.”                                                                   
-Danielle West, Junior
“I loved all of it. I loved everything. I liked how we were able to see and experience what a real hospital environment feels like. It was really exciting to see the innovations made and successfully used here. I also really liked Noelle and the NICU.”              
-Kristina Wooldridge, Junior

November 18, 2015

Night Rally – O’Dowd CMT & ASB Epic Rap Battle

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November 17, 2015

Classroom Matters – Test Preparation

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Classroom Matters – How to Be a Successful Student

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Finding God in All Things

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