By ASD Student Su Min Lee ‘20
In January, the American School of Dubai won the 2019 Zayed Sustainability Prize. The Zayed Sustainability Prize is based out of Abu Dhabi and is an Emirates National Government initiative to support the legacy of Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the U.A.E., who considered the environment and sustainability to be very important.
The American School of Dubai encourages sustainable habits and innovative change by spreading awareness and taking informed action to improve the present and future of our community. Some of the major achievements ASD has made regarding sustainability include the formation of the Sustainability Committee by the administration, as well as student organizations such as Global Issues Network, Sustainability Action Team, Sustain Our World, and High Tide. ASD also actively engages young students from elementary school to middle school through organizations such as Roots & Shoots and Global Issues Network. ASD has eliminated the use of plastic bottles and all single-use plates and cutlery. This, at first, faced many criticisms from the community. Yasmin Gulamhusein, a junior at ASD, faced many challenges when she first tried to implement sustainability within the school, along with her friend, Aleena Abbasi.
“I think with sustainability, there are always going to be challenges when you try to implement a new project because there are always going to be people that don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Making sustainable changes isn’t easy because there is so much that can be done and there’s so much that we have to change, as well as changing our actions and our mindsets, which is especially hard with teenagers. We did face challenges in our sustainability projects. For example, people didn’t like that there were no longer plastic water bottles on sale at school, and they didn’t like how we took away the convenience of taking plastic cups and plastic plates and just throwing them away when they were done. But in the end, it’s all for a bigger cause, and it’s all to make the environment better; and once we educated people about this, people were more open to what we were doing.”
One of the reasons for ASD’s success in the implementation of sustainability was the administration’s enthusiasm and their endless support for creating a green environment. “The administration side has been extremely helpful and positive about this,” said Mr. Laurence Myers, K-12 service learning coordinator at ASD.
“A couple of years ago, when the Sustainability Action Team was created in ASD, we decided that we would focus on the development of the new sustainability statement. And that was, as far as my experience goes, the beginning of a real in-depth conversation with the administration about sustainability and where it fits. It also fits very well with service learning and a lot of students having the capacity to change their school community. Out of those conversations came the administration conversations about the need for a sustainability committee. Senior administration of the board was encouraging, with a lot of ways that the school can look into being more sustainable. Ultimately, sustainability is good for the environment but it’s also good for our health and wellbeing, as well as the financial side,” he added.
This year, there were over 2,700 global applicants competing for the $100,000 prize. With the money, ASD is planning to purchase an industrial composter, a beehive, and a data sustainability dashboard. The industrial composter will compost all different types of food waste in the cafeteria as well as landscaping waste, which consists of the cut-down trees and any waste from the campus. Without the industrial composter, a lot of landscaping waste would go to a landfill, but by putting the waste into the industrial composter, the waste will turn into a compost where it can be used in the garden and even be sold to the families at ASD. The beehive will help teach the younger students about the importance of ecosystems and how the environment can affect these, as well as giving them an actual visual example of what it looks like. The data sustainability dashboard will give running statistics on how much energy has been used that day, how long the lights have been turned on, and how much water has been used, and it keeps the community members accountable as well as informed about their actions so that ASD can move forward knowing that one’s actions actually have an impact.
Aleena Abbasi, founder of the Sustainability Action Team at ASD, believes that the school has a bright future in terms of sustainability. “By taking a look at the sheer number of student-led organizations that have made sustainability a priority and the highly-dedicated members and advisors in all of them, it gives me hope, not only for the future of ASD, but for the future of the world. I am very proud of the progress that we have made to raise awareness and establish sustainability as one of the principle endeavors of our student population. I am incredibly lucky to attend a school that brings together students from all over the world, from different backgrounds and cultures, as that is what allows us to be able to generate and implement so many innovative ideas that lead to overall societal progress. If we continue on this positive trajectory, I believe that we will continue to make substantial headway on many global issues,” she said.
It is exciting news that ASD has a promising outlook in terms of sustainability. Although some changes weren’t particularly welcomed by every community member, the administration, faculty, and students have made groundbreaking steps with their passion and insight. With the aspiring young students learning about preserving our environment, ASD for sure is a pioneer in sustainability! We can all be proud to be part of a school that not only wins prizes, but does its bit to save the planet.
Su Min Lee writes for The Akhbar, an ASD High School student publication that showcases campus life, student initiatives, pop culture, and current events.