When Shanghai International School pupils become global champions

At the beginning of this term eight pupils from across the Senior School came together to form the Global Champions CCA. Even in such a short space of time, members Nick, Amber, Jonathan, Matthew, Charlene (all year 10), Minnie (year 11), Rose and Serena (year 12) have successfully started a wide range of different projects and initiatives, with plenty more to come.

For those who haven’t heard of it, what is the purpose of the Global Champions CCA?

Serena: Its purpose is to champion global issues and causes that we care about, and this year it wasn’t a difficult decision to choose climate change as our focus. The future of our planet’s environment is something that is very important to all of us and the current political climate of increased activism about social responsibility on environmental issues makes this the ideal time to get involved.

Can you outline some of the initiatives that you’ve undertaken as a group?

Amber: We’ve split into three main groups in order to take on different initiatives and tasks that we want to achieve. For example, I’m part of the group developing the ‘Green Room’ idea, where we will transform one classroom to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. Right now we’re equipping Mr O’Brien’s room with energy saving devices, plants and other sustainability features. If it works and impresses people as a concept, we would want to roll it out to other classrooms.
Rose: We’re also working hard on improving the College’s paper recycling efforts. We’re working with Green Initiatives, a company based here in China, and they are an excellent partner. The paper we send them is turned into new consumable items with a high level of reliability and efficiency. You can even track where your wastepaper goes, so the data is quite quantifiable and it means we can figure out the impact of what we’ve done.
Minnie: Another big area of focus for us is the cafeteria and V&A café. We’ve been working closely with Aden to find ways to improve the sustainability of the food and drink that’s consumed on campus. We’ve sent proposals for regular data on food waste, so we can show those waste levels in a special sustainability assembly each month and hopefully show reductions in waste when our proposed changes kick in. The cafeteria is a place where lots of waste is generated. We’ve already made progress from last year – recycling bins are in place, some wasteful products have been removed, but there’s a lot more to do.
Nick: Probably our most visible project is our ongoing efforts to replace single-use plastic containers and implements with more sustainable alternatives. We want juice boxes and bottled water to be served from jugs, the complete removal of plastic straws and other single-use plastics wherever possible.

In all these projects, recording and analysing data seems to play a central role. Why is it important that you have this kind of tangible data to work with?

Minnie: Data is a vital factor in all of our projects because we need to be able to quantify any progress we make. We feel that’s a key differentiator in any sustainability project undertaken today. People know already that they need to live greener lives, but so often they don’t see the connection between supposedly environmentally friendly actions and the promised outcomes of a better environment. This is why we’re working hard to make sure that we can actually prove that what we’re doing is making a difference.
Charlene: This is part of the bigger picture of wanting to change the culture around sustainability  at Wellington. Lots of great work has already been done, you only have to look at the environmentally-friendly elements of the most recent International Food Festival to see that, but we can always do more. We want to influence pupils to make more environmentally-sustainable choices in their daily lives – from the food they choose to eat, to the products they buy and what they do with their waste.
Jonathan: This extends to parents and staff as well, because everyone needs to be aware of the issues and be part of solving them. We’ve been offered a place in several of the College’s WeChat groups so we can post information and data about our climate change initiatives.

 

How else are you getting your message out there?

 

Amber: We want to get to the point where we can have a regular update in The Week Ahead, keeping everyone in the loop on how our various efforts are going and spreading awareness as we report key milestones, new projects and even links to global efforts and leading thought pieces.
Rose: Of course, we want to get everything properly up and running before we go too deeply into the dissemination of information stage though. We want Green Initiatives, our recycling efforts, the cafeteria projects and so on to be properly established with some solid and presentable data.
Nick: We also created a climate change quiz for the Cultural Capital event for Prep School. It’s important for us that pupils are telling pupils about the importance of environmental sustainability, because we think it reinforces the message that they are getting already from adults.
Serena: It’s an ongoing conversation. We want anyone and everyone from across the College to engage with what we’re doing and come to us with questions and ideas. We want to work closely with our peers, parents and, of course, the teachers and service staff, so that everyone becomes part of the whole-campus efforts to make Wellington greener.

What does the work you’re doing in this CCA mean to you personally? Why are you choosing to spend your time here, doing these projects?

 

Nick: We went on a school trip to Borneo last year for rainforest conservation and investigating biodiversity and that really made a difference on my view of the environment. When I think about climate change, I think about the trees we planted and the animals we saw in Borneo, and it will be for nothing if we don’t fix it.
Amber: I’ve been thinking a lot about microplastics and how they get into our oceans, our soil and even the food we eat. I want to do something about it. I realised that we know so little about the damage we’re doing to the world, so I want there to be more discussion and more action taken.
Jonathan: I recently wrote about how there’s not enough socially responsible entrepreneurship trying to tackle climate change. So many companies and individuals feel like they can’t do anything about the issue, or that their impact would be too small to be effective, but thinking that someone else will fix the problem for you is what got us into this mess in the first place. I want to show people that every effort counts when it comes to climate change.
Matthew: Recently a science team managed to access the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, the deepest trench on Earth, and they found a plastic bag floating around. Similarly, the Barrier Reef is on the verge of dying, so the signs that we are killing our oceans are plain to see. This realisation made me want to do something to reverse that damage.
Charlene: Last year I investigated a lot of climate-based issues, like major forest fires happening across the globe, and I wanted to make a positive difference. I didn’t want to switch off because the danger is real and it’s already here. It’s everyone’s business, and it’s a problem that needs solving urgently.
Minnie: We’re very privileged to be here at Wellington and I feel that our good fortune and resources gives us a further responsibility to contribute to solving global issues. The least we can do is to start with our own immediate environment and not add to the problem, while trying to promote better ways of thinking and living in a greener manner.
Rose: Apathy is the killer of the planet. We learn about climate change in geography classes, science classes, in assemblies and from the news, but too often it’s too easy to phase it out in your mind as a problem that’s too big and too pervasive to deal with. If we had all done something to improve the environment, climate change would have been solved by now, or at least it would be in a much better position. We are trying to fight apathy and make a change, which will hopefully inspire further change.
Serena: I joined because I wanted to connect with people who care about the future of the planet and to use that desire to bring about positive change. I want to be able to take practical steps towards promoting more sustainable ways of living. It doesn’t matter where or how it starts, what matters is that it does start.  If we can change minds and attitudes, ultimately that is what changes habits and lifestyles.

Look out for further announcements from the Global Champions team in the as they deliver sustainable change to different parts of Wellington. If you have ideas or want to offer help, seek them out and let them know, they’ll show you how to make our College greener.

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