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Teaching the right lessons to save the environment

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Through its various efforts, Hillgrove has seen a decrease in its electricity consumption over the past 18 months.

AS part of its mission to provide a holistic education to its students, Hillgrove Secondary School rolled out a Sustainable Environment Education (SEE) programme in 2015 that aimed to encourage critical thinking about environmental issues. The success of the programme resulted in the school winning the Best Energy Efficiency Practices in the Public Sector award at this year's EENP awards.

Through the SEE initiative, the school wanted to send the message to its students that every small lifestyle change can make a difference in saving the environment. To this end, Hillgrove adopted a whole school approach towards energy efficiency and targets to reduce its energy consumption by 3 per cent by 2021, from its 2018 level.

Leading this drive is a Green Committee that oversees the implementation of sustainable infrastructure and the development of SEE curriculum and enrichment programmes. "With strong support from the school's leaders and partners, clear expectations are spelt out and translated into everyday practices," said Chia Yew Loon, Year Head, Hillgrove Secondary School.

Despite facing budget constraints for retrofits to save energy, Hillgrove has put in place a number of initiatives with its partners.

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For instance, the school worked with partners such as the Building and Construction Authority, World Wide Fund for Nature, Singapore Environment Council and South West Community Development Council so that it could better understand its strengths and weaknesses, and identify opportunities for energy efficiency improvements.

MONITORING CONSUMPTION

The Green Committee also closely tracks monthly energy and water consumption. The consumption data is then prominently displayed on notice boards to raise awareness among its students.

The committee also conducts regular checks on classrooms to ensure that all electrical switches are turned off when not in use, while school leaders and teachers enforce rules on the use of air conditioning in air-conditioned classrooms. For example, air conditioning is set at 25 degrees Celsius and can only be turned on after 11.55 am on non-rainy days when there are more than 20 students present.

Meanwhile, the air conditioning in the staff room is turned off 30 minutes before the end of each day to conserve energy.

NURTURING GREEN HABITS

Hillgrove has weaved in energy efficiency themes, such as Earth Hour and climate change, in its school curriculum, enrichment programmes, assembly talks, learning journeys, camps and training sessions.

Educational posters are also placed around the school to educate students on climate change, and the need for energy conservation, waste minimisation and water conservation. To further encourage students and staff to turn on only what is needed, and to turn off what is used before leaving the rooms, posters with lighting and air-conditioner switch layout plans are displayed near switches.

The Green Committee works with Environment Advocates - a group of Hillgrove students who are committed to the green cause - to pursue its goals. Beyond leading and educating fellow schoolmates on the importance of environmental protection and energy conservation, these advocates have also shared good sustainability practices with Environment Club members from South View Primary School.

Hillgrove has also raised awareness about the importance of energy conservation and recycling among residents in Bukit Gombak Constituency through its signature Green@Hillgrove programme, which started in 2010. Every year, students and staff, together with grassroots leaders, go door-to-door to collect newspapers, old clothing and e-waste, with the proceeds from the sale of these recyclables going to charity.

CHANGING MINDSETS

Staff and students are also more actively involved in the 4Rs - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Refuse. For example, students bring their own reusable water bottles to school instead of buying bottled mineral water. Staff also use their own cutlery and containers instead of disposables.

"Protecting the environment and saving electricity requires a change in mindset and the formation of new habits. Everyone has a part to play. Initially, students showed some resistance about the rules on the use of air-conditioning in their classrooms. But with education, they have become more aware of the rationale behind the rules," said Angeline Chan, Principal, Hillgrove Secondary School.

Through its various efforts, Hillgrove has seen a decrease in its electricity consumption over the past 18 months, and is well on track to achieve its 3 per cent reduction target by 2021.

The school has plans to install motion sensors in all its toilets and replace its lights to LED lighting progressively.