Every April 22 we celebrate Earth Day; an annual celebration that serves as a significant platform to  advocate for environmental conservation. Originating in 1970 Earth Day is primarily an initiative of the non-profit organization which has evolved into a global movement spearheaded by earthday.org, with over 1 billion people participating in some form across 193 nations. In 2024, the theme is “Planet vs. Plastics,” which covers the urgent need to confront the massive ongoing issue of plastic pollution. 

Earth Day inspires people worldwide to fight climate change and safeguard the environment through diverse initiatives such as clean-up drives, tree planting campaigns and educational programs. When it comes to sustainability, AISB understands the importance of addressing environmental issues and actively promotes eco-friendly alternatives and practices.

Andrei Nica, the Facilities Manager at AISB, discussed some of the ongoing initiatives at our school that are aimed at reducing electricity consumption for the sake of the environment. One of the most significant is the use of solar panels to generate electricity. Mounted on the roof of the ELC, they have been functioning for seven years.

Our photovoltaic panels, generating 100 Kilowatts of electricity, are crucial in our mission to reduce energy consumption by up to 7%. AISB is researching amplifying our investment in renewable energy generation to nearly 400 Kilowatts across three additional systems. The law permits a maximum increase to 399 Kilowatts; pushing beyond would transition us into energy providers – a path we’re not pursuing. This initiative has not only shown to be earth friendly, but also reduces utility costs.

One of the other actions that our school took was an energy conservation program in the fall of 2022.

“This procedure has reduced our energy consumption up to 15%. For buildings we set rules for teachers and staff such as: turn off lights after class, turn off electronic devices, all this to minimize the consumption”

Andrei Nica

Another significant project involves reducing the use of plastic within the school. Plastic is found all around you everyday – food containers, plastic bags, plastic cutlery, bottle caps, and even straws. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, and not all of it is recycled (givingcompass.org.)

Romania faces significant challenges in meeting its recycling objectives, marked by persistently low recycling rates and a substantial portion of waste destined for landfills. Despite national campaigns and waste management strategies, the country struggles to boost recycling rates, with only approximately 12-14% of waste undergoing selective collection. This falls drastically short of the EU average of 28%, highlighting Romania’s struggle to enhance its recycling practices. In response, Romania has undertaken measures such as closing non-compliant landfills, establishing new recycling facilities and investing in recycling infrastructure including a dedicated facility for plastic and electronic waste. 

Although the World Bank and the UN have not directly intervened in Romania’s waste management and recycling endeavors, they have extended financial support and guidance for broader developmental projects, including environmental conservation and waste management. A major concern is whether this funding is actually going directly to aiding recycling projects…

By working with a contractor, it is guaranteed that AISB’s waste is properly sorted and recycled. After being collected, all the trash the school produces is transported to a facility where it is sorted and distributed to the correct recycling and waste facilities.

What else could we do as a community institution?

What are additional initiatives we could implement at AISB? Firstly, we could establish a comprehensive recycling program that includes not only paper and plastics but also electronic waste and other recyclable materials. Educating students, parents and staff about the importance of recycling and providing resources for proper disposal can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

Additionally, organizing regular campus clean-up events and tree planting initiatives could foster a sense of community engagement and environmental stewardship. These activities would not only beautify our campus but also contribute to local biodiversity and ecosystem health. This could be a great opportunity for a CAS or service project!

Beyond the actions of recycling and energy conservation, we should foster a culture of environmental awareness that permeates every aspect of school life. From curriculum integration to extracurricular activities, students should be encouraged to explore and advocate for solutions to pressing environmental challenges. 

For instance, in the IB program Design Technology course, students look into several sustainability aspects as part of their assessment, the same goes for many MYP product designs. Not only that but there are several projects throughout our high school career dedicated to the cause. Our school also offers programs like ECO council and an after school CCA dedicated to gardening.  

At our school, we try to prioritize environmental responsibility in our daily actions. When leaving a classroom, we make sure to turn off the lights to conserve energy. Recycling bins are conveniently placed around campus, encouraging us to dispose of trash responsibly instead of leaving it scattered. 

That said, we still need to take greater ownership of our environmental impact by keeping track of our actions, ensuring that we contribute positively to our school community and the planet.