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Copenhagen teachers and students work to create a carbon-neutral school

published 15 December 2009 updated 15 December 2009

As world leaders meet at COP 15 to negotiate a global agreement to avert climate catastrophe, students and teachers in Copenhagen are taking concrete steps towards making their school carbon neutral by 2015 – a full decade before their city aims to achieve carbon-neutrality.

“Oh yes, we are definitely going to do it,” predicts Peter Daniel Andersen, vice-principal of Vanløse Public School. “We set ourselves a deadline that all the children in the school would be educated in the climage challenge by January 2010 and we have done it across the entire curriculum, not just in the natural sciences.”

The 507 students at Vanløse, from Kindergarten through Grade 10, have created art work, poetry and videos, along with solar-powered cars and windmills made of Lego. One of their teachers wrote a song about climate change and the school choir performed it on Danish television during the week of the climate talks. Some of the older students are volunteering at COP 15 and the Klima Forum.

As the students are actively engaged in learning and teaching others, including their parents and other adults in the local community about sustainability, Andersen and the rest of the school staff are working on many different levels to reduce the carbon footprint of the 1920s-era school building.

Isolated outer doors, modern double-glazed windows, low-wattage lighting, timers on light switches and solar panels are only a start. They have plans to improve drainage and usage of rainwater, to plant a green roof on one building, and even to put windmills on another.

But beyond the physical changes, Andersen is most excited about the intellectual and ethical growth of the students and the entire school community. The staff, members of the Danish teachers’ union DLF, are very dedicated and innovative in their commitment to the programme, he said.

“We’re all creating a sense of ownership on this issue. And the youngsters we are educating here are going to become the global citizens who will make a real difference in the future.”