Despite the unfortunate politicalisation of the climate crisis, the risks posed by the climate crisis mean that many of our students face a very uncertain future. While I completely agree that governments and large corporations have a very important role to play, we cannot use that as an excuse for inaction. There are a few problems that limit our ability to take action. In this blog, I will address some of those issues and suggest potential ways that we can encourage our students, our teachers, and our managers and school leaders to take concrete actions.

The purpose of this blog is not to provide an exhaustive list of potential actions. It is just a start, and some of them may be really obvious to you. I would encourage teachers and school leaders to find climate sustainability models relevant to your context, and use these to further inform action, because if we don’t make a significant course correction, we might be heading for disaster. And that disaster will impact our children and students more than it will impact us. Certainly, we have a responsibility to create a sustainable corporate culture, and to do that, our customers, our staff, and our leaders have to play a vital, active role.



While most view the role of the language teacher as teaching English (or whatever other language they are teaching), teachers can have a significant impact on how their students view global issues. And climate action is a very pressing current global issue. The first step teachers can take is to consider how to incorporate climate action into our lessons. At higher levels, it is possible to consistently having discussions about what we can do to combat climate change, and also include lessons on the science and facts behind the climate crisis, but it is often more difficult with younger or lower-level learners. Possible ideas for lower levels could include:

  • Food and drink – Highlighting food waste, or the excessive use of plastic or tins for drinks. Considering the massive amount of garbage generated if we buy and consume packaged foods.
  • Animals – Consider how our actions impact the homes of animals. This could be as simple as showing a picture of an animal and large amount of trash or pollution in a river or forest, and eliciting how the animals might feel, and what they need and don’t need.
  • Toys – How packaging impacts pollution and waste, and what we can do with those packages.

Tip – Consider in every lesson how it might relate to the climate and add a climate minute or two to every lesson where it is possible

A further thing teachers can consider doing is reviewing classroom practices. This should include the temperature the air conditioner is set at, for example. There have been numerous times when I have walked into a classroom with the air conditioner on, and some students are wearing jackets. Certainly, that defeats the purpose. Also, consider how many copies you are making in your classes. Coud there be a better way to share the materials? Could students do a worksheet in pairs rather than individually? That would cut copies in half, and while photocopies might sound like a small thing, one of the largest teaching organisations in the world reported that teachers overproduced 10 million copies (counting an A4 sheet as one copy) a few years ago. In context, you can produce around 10,000 sheets of paper from a 45ft Pine tree. That means 1000 trees were destroyed for copies that wasn’t used. And that is by one organisation out of thousands. Some questions to ask:

  • What temperate is the air conditioner on and why that temperature?
  • Do I need all these copies? How can I reduce paper use?
  • Do I need to have all the lights in the room on? Can I suggest energy friendly lights to management?
  • How can I model my willingness to take action?

Tip – Consistently look at your classroom and think about how you can make it more climate friendly.

The last idea here is to actually inspire action. There are many ways this could be done. Rather than making a ‘Help the environment poster’ why not actually get out of the classroom and do something? Plant trees, clean up a local area or beach, tell parents or friends about actions and monitor the impact, and for higher levels – write a letter to the local government or newspaper suggesting specific actions and follow up on these.

Tip – Do something and get your students to do something. It is their future and yours after all.




School leaders

The rest of this blog post looks at school leaders. This is simply because they have the biggest role to play, and without actual tangible actions from the leadership of educational institutions, all the actions taken by teachers will amount to very little. If you are a teacher reading this, feel free to share the blog or ideas from it with your manager or management team!

The rest of this blog will look at 4 areas.

  • Leading by example
  • Adjusting the curriculum and training
  • Community engagement
  • Inspiring action


Leading by example

One of the most important aspects of bringing climate action into your organisation is by showing leadership and leading by example. This can be done in numerous ways, but I will only discuss two here.

In your school, is it possible to reduce your energy consumption? Can you switch to energy saving lights and appliances? Can you use renewable energy? Is it easy or difficult for staff and students to recycle, reduce and reuse? If it isn’t, what changes can you make in your organisation to make it possible? Furthermore, could you include these changes into your vision and purpose?

Another very simple change involves transport. Cycling has become very popular as a means of reducing our impact on the environment. Do you have space for students and staff to leave their bicycles? While this might seem like a really silly idea, how many people avoid cycling because they are worried their bikes might get stolen or damaged? And also, could you walk or cycle to school? Certainly, that will have a significant impact on leading from the front.

Tip – Make your commitment to sustainability visible to your staff and be open about your commitment to the environment.


Adjusting the curriculum and training

There are language organisations in lots of different contexts. Some of these ideas might not work in your context. But, if there are young learners in your school, could you insist that arts and crafts are done with materials that are being reused or recycled?

With older or more advanced learners, could you replace some of the texts in your materials to look at topics like renewable energy, or climate policy? Even where textbooks are followed closely, there is no reason why you cannot adapt a lesson looking at the imperative to include climate policy. Or the present or past perfect looking at how renewable energy has developed. And these are just a few ideas. Encourage your teachers and staff to be creative with the curriculum, and if they are unsure how to guide them, the first few points of this blog post may help.

Tip – The curriculum drives (at least to some extent) what your organisation does. Use it to drive the change we need.




Community engagement

The two key components of community engagement are advocacy and partnerships. As school leaders, it is sometimes easy to get caught up within your organisation and forget to look outside of your school for ways of promoting and driving sustainable practices. These partnerships could be something as simple as setting up clean-up projects, or tree planting events, or highlighting how organisations are collaborating to combat climate change. Examples of this could be something as simple as:

  • If you are getting lunch for children in an after-school program, can the delivery of and consumption of the food be done in bowls and containers that can be reused rather than containers that are single use.
  • Can you set up agreements with companies for electricity, or plumbing and electrical services that focus on green energy?
  • Are you buying recycled paper for your copy machine?

As for advocacy, it can seem like a mountain to climb until you start. Write a letter to a local representative. Get teachers and students in your school to do the same. And soon, you might get invited to meetings, or events where you can not only promote your school (on the condition that you can back up what you are promoting) but also actively take part in initiatives that will have a positive effect.

Tip – You are not in this alone. Find people like you and work with them.


Inspiring action

So, how do you inspire action? Your students probably already know about the dangers of not acting. And they are quite possibly young and energetic. Use that. How can your students be supported to voice their opposition to certain policies and how can you support their ability to express their ideas? While this ties in very closely with your approach to academic policies, it also means allowing students the space to suggest positive changes to your classrooms, your school, and the immediate environment. And the best thing is that they can help you recruit students who feel the same as them. Because it seems fairly obvious, that while students want to learn English, they want a future where they can actually use it.

Finally, create a culture where we actively look at sustainability and the climate rather than it being something that we will deal with eventually. Do it now. As in the moment you finished reading this if you haven’t got something in place already.

Tip – Once you are working with people who are serious about the environment and sustainability, find and inspire others.



Looking forward

I have heard numerous times that the changes we make have little to no effect. And that is true if the changes you are making is turning the water off when you brush your teeth or walking around the house turning off the lights. But we are at a point where we need to make some serious changes, and as educators and school leaders we can help lead that change. Inspire that change. Because that teenager or young adult sitting in your classroom, or who has their first job with your school will see what you do. And they might be the next big CEO, or president, or someone who can really push change. So, start today. Right now. And keep doing something because it is important not for us, but for the younger generation and their children. We owe it to them.