Sustainability means making decisions based on the consciousness that all things in this planet are connected and that one must be responsible for their action to be able to build a better future.
Academic institutions, for instance, are classic examples of interconnected systems where the values of sustainability can be applied. School systems where green principles can be applied include:
- Physical structure (materials, systems, and operations)
- Environment (natural resources and ecosystems)
- Human aspect (administrators, students, community)
Here are some areas where schools and future school builders should look into when they want to include sustainability as part of their guiding principles.
- Selection of a site with efficient transportation lines and with bike and foot access. These aspects can help promote physical activity and interaction with the surrounding and the community while lessening carbon emissions that affect the environment.
- Investigation of site’s history. It is important to never use a site that has been previously used as a landfill, underground storage tank, or mine, as this may give rise to problems with soil contamination.
- Incorporation of green and local materials. Sustainable construction materials include reused, recycled, and reclaimed materials. These are considered green options because they typically do not involve energy and pollution costs connected to mining and processing raw materials. Local materials must also be considered because they have lower fuel use and shipping-related air pollution impact. In addition, use of these materials support the local economy.
- Development and use of green facilities. School facilities must be built and operated with sufficient awareness to the need for smart energy and water usage. Sustainable buildings and structures might cost high initially, but the low operating costs will prove them to be a smarter investment down the road.
- Green and smart design. Structures must include designs that provide proper air flow, do not use harmful chemicals, and incorporate natural lighting.
Institutions that push for education for sustainability in Hong Kong look into these aspects to create learning facilities that teach by example. It is through green schools that this generation of learners can learn the value of living sustainably and securing a safer and brighter future for everyone.