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British Council Blends Education with Environmental Protection

Mark Crossey, Director, British Council Uzbekistan:

“Environmental protection has become a hot issue in many countries, as indeed many are now experiencing everyday problems in this area. One of the surefire ways of mitigating these serious problems is by influencing people through education, education which is oriented towards the youth and has a direct impact on the future. This is the reason why the British Council prioritises educational activities.

Young people’s growing environmental awareness will be one of the factors in resolving many of today’s global problems. With this in mind, the British Council in Uzbekistan is running a youth project, the British Council Enterprise Award, which is a training and competition initiative geared towards students at professional colleges in Uzbekistan. It is designed to improve skills in innovative thinking, entrepreneurship, communication and planning, and is expected to help contestants boost their creative approach and enhance teamwork skills, problem solving, financial literacy and leadership skills. Those ideas that are found to be the most interesting and promising will be financially supported to bring them to fruition, and the bulk of the entries devised for the contest are now devoted to tackling environmental issues.

Based on the results of group work under this project, we will create a “University of the Future” concept that will be furnished with an energy-efficient system, virtual labs, smart classes, innovation centers as well as summer and winter gardens that will accommodate a variety of plants, including endangered ones. Its walls will be mobile, which means classrooms could be converted into large conference rooms. The idea is to cut costs associated with energy, water and other resources while boosting comfort for students and teachers. We hope that this concept, created by Uzbekistan’s talented students, might serve as a model for future academic physical space.

From March 22 to April 22, we are running our Eco Month, which is an effort to encourage eco-friendly behaviours through information resources and social networks, and on our website, Facebook and Instagram we will announce engaging competitions and campaigns. As initiators of the campaign, we try to be environment-friendly ourselves, demonstrating the principle “from words to action.”

The British Council works in 110 countries across the world. Each office has ‘green coordinators’, who work to ensure that environmental standards are met and remind their colleagues about the environmental principles that should be kept in mind.

With each passing year, our projects become bigger both in terms of the number of participants and geographic scope. That said, we are working on reducing carbon dioxide emissions by reducing the frequency of using cars and airplanes.

For example, I enjoy riding the Tashkent metro. I like it a lot and use it as an alternative to the office vehicle. Other staff members do the same. Also, these days when we organise big events that involve a large number of people, we try to avoid producing a large number of paper documents; we send invitations and provide information via email, thereby reducing the amount of printed material.

We used to make plastic bags and fill them with paper-based promotional products while today we also try to avoid doing that; instead, we hold various competitions and awareness campaigns online. As for secondary use of our office equipment, we now donate it to other companies instead of discarding it.

We have also come up with the initiative ‘No Fly Month’, which encourages the British Council’s regional offices in 15 countries to reduce air travel. As an alternative, the initiative proposes making broader use of modern technologies to communicate with partners and our colleagues in other offices. We recognize that stopping using flights altogether is unrealistic; but, given modern communication technologies now, it is possible to reduce the number of flights. In addition, this is a good opportunity to take a break and mull over options for communicating with people and appreciate face-to-face contacts or we use video conferences.

Several years ago, we ran an exciting environmental education project with schools in Uzbekistan and developed useful books and educational resources with assistance from national experts. At this point we are trying to come up with an idea for environmental education in primary school because the earlier we start fostering an environmental culture, the better the results. All these events will be held under the aegis of English language instruction in primary schools. 

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