The Greenest School on Earth

Published on 09-09-2016

The Green School campus is immersed in the jungle, providing constant opportunities to experience the impact that we can have as a species on our environment. To build an appreciation of sustainability, the students start small by thinking locally, they reacquaint themselves with the environment and rebuild their symbiotic relationship with it.  Day-by-day, the school community develops a strong bond with nature. By making it part of who they are, students and teachers feel inclined to nourish it, compelled to respect it and empowered to care for it now and forever.

The founders, John and Cynthia Hardy, have taken their vision of holistic education and applied it to the architecture of Green School. The bamboo buildings are much more than just an architectural wonder in the middle of the jungle. They are giving back to the land by expanding, yet preserving, the innate beauty, plentiful culture and genuine souls of this magical island.

On a Journey to living sustainably

Living a sustainable lifestyle is a process of learning by doing and remembering what we once knew and have forgotten over many generations. Many things need to change to lead a life that is more integrated with the natural systems that surround us. The most important change that can lead to living an authentically sustainable life is a change in our mindset and habit patterns. At Green School, studying, working, living, and playing is done with an awareness of the impact that our thinking and decisions have. This philosophy and approach of the Green School is the guiding compass towards the destination of true sustainability.

The main components of sustainable operation of the Green School are comprised of: 

Solar Photovoltaics (PV): Solar energy is an important and material component of Green School’s renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction strategy. The solar photovoltaic and microgrid energy management system is composed of 118 solar PV panels, a 72 kWh capacity lead acid battery bank, and inverters. Current PV panel optimum capacity contributes 21 kWh to Green School’s renewable energy portfolio. Meeting Green School’s energy needs is getting it closer to the goal of having a carbon positive footprint.

Micro-hydro Vortex: The micro-hydro vortex embodies the learning by doing philosophy. Through this exciting renewable energy project, invaluable lessons in micro-hydro energy development, community engagement, and ecosystem benefits were learned. The Vortex contributes approximately 6 kW of renewable energy to the overall Green School energy portfolio.

Water Filtration System - Recycled Water: Green School is constantly in search of solutions to minimize energy consumption. The energy embodied in water processing contributes to climate change. By adopting a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtration system the school met its needs for drinking water. The source of the facility’s potable water is a 60 meters deep well. The Reverse Osmosis Bio-filtration System ensures the purity and safety of the drinking water for the Green School community.

Waste Management: The Green School solid waste management system is one of the greatest examples of the systems thinking culture it promotes. The waste is part of a closed system and understanding how to cycle it back through the environment and into the soil and food creates an authentic sense of connection to all the moving parts in our natural world.

There are four primary solid waste streams that are managed at Green School:

● Food waste from the kitchen is either fed to the pigs or sent to the composting center for recycling. 

● Biomass waste produced by the gardens and natural landscape during their lifecycle is used as an input material in the composing station.

● Human waste or sewage is recycled through the composting toilet system which is recycled back into the soil that becomes fertile ground for planting bamboo and bananas.

● Industrial and office waste is delivered to a social enterprise that collects and recycles materials from the Green School and the surrounding community.

This is consistent with the principles of a circular economy where there is no such thing as waste and a movement away from the destructive practices of the “Take, Make, Waste” system of industrial production and consumption that plagues contemporary society.

The Green School uses composting as one of its solid waste management strategies. There is a dedicated compost station on campus where biomass, kitchen waste and cow manure is collected and composed to create an organic material that is used as nutrient rich fertilizer for the permaculture gardens dispersed throughout the school grounds that supply the kitchen.

Aquaponics System: A simple definition of aquaponics is that it is the integration of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one closed system.

The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. The third component of the system is the microbes (nitrifying bacteria) and composting red worms that thrive in the growing media. They do the job of converting the ammonia from the fish waste first into nitrites, then into nitrates and the solids into vermin compost that are food for the plants.

The Bio Bus: The Bio Bus story represents the nexus of solution-based learning, community engagement, and enterprise. Bio Bus is a social enterprise, initiated by Green School students, that strives to provide sustainable transport services to Green School students and community members. The project sponsors set up a cooking oil collection system in the local community. Once cooking oil is collected, it is sent to a processing facility to create the biofuel that is then used by the Bio Bus vehicles to transport students and community members.

Another byproduct of the cooking oil recycling process is glycerine which can be further processed into sustainable soap products.  The use of  bio soap reduces the use of monoculture palm oil based products that have chemical additives which pollute fresh water sources, not to mention the massive ecological impact of palm oil plantation related deforestation.

Wall-less-ness: helping transform education: Green School goes beyond the definition of school; it’s becoming a leading model of relevantly integrated, sustainable and holistic education beyond the boundaries of what happens in the classroom.