International School of Boston Goes Green

International School of Boston Goes Green

Green is a popular color in Cambridge schools these days. The International School of Boston (actually in Cambridge) has officially approved a Sustainability Initiative to reduce its environmental impact on the earth.

“First of all, we’re calculating our Carbon Footprint,” says Shannon Bloemker, the ISB parent leading the school’s Sustainability Initiative. “That’s how much carbon gas our activities produce. NSTAR is doing a baseline energy audit so we can see what we’re using now, and then we can measure the impact of our efforts to reduce our gas and electricity usage as our program continues.”

The program’s goals are to conserve natural resources, reduce pollution and waste, and provide a healthy toxic-free environment.

“Recycling is great, but reducing and reusing are better,” says Shannon. “Our goal is to reduce waste throughout the school. For example, we’re reducing cafeteria waste through our green lunch program.”


ISB has virtually eliminated lunch waste thanks to green lunch bags each child received at the start of the year. These green packs include silverware, two cloth napkins, and a sturdy plastic drinking cup so students don’t have to throw away plastic spoons and forks, paper napkins, or plastic beverage bottles. Children clean their silverware each night and once a week, they put cloth napkins in the laundry.

Other improvements in the lunch program include whole grain bread and brown rice for hot lunch, as well as organic fruits and vegetables. Local organic apples are available all day long for all students, teachers, staff, and parents, courtesy of The Green Team.


ISB is also committed to reducing the amount of bottled water in the school community. “We’ve installed new filtered water fountains in the school to replace bottled water,” says Shannon. “This reduces plastic water bottle waste, not to mention the energy consumed transporting bottled water throughout the country and manufacturing the plastic bottles in the first place!”

To that end, each table in the cafeteria has a pitcher of filtered water for kids to drink. This reduces not only the number of water bottles, but the number of juice boxes and bottles and soda bottles and cans the kids bring to school.

Water in this country, unlike many other countries, is safe and drinkable. There is no need to support an environmentally unfriendly economy of bottled water. According to a 2001 report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), about 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle 89 billion liters of water each year.

Besides the quantities of plastic bottles, the energy required to manufacture and transport these bottles to their destinations is huge. So, according to WWF, bottled water companies, due to their unregulated use of valuable resources and their production of billions of plastic bottles present a significant strain on the environment.


ISB has also instituted a paper reuse and recycling program. “Our recycling bins are made of 100% recycled plastic and collapse for easier shipping, which ultimately saves energy,” says Shannon who researched where to find such bins. “Students are responsible for collecting and emptying their class’s recycling at the end of each day.”

Did you know the average household disposes of 13,000 pieces of paper a year? As a country, we throw away an average of one billion trees worth of paper a year!

“And there’s more,” says Shannon enthusiastically. “We’re implementing a green cleaning policy in conjunction with our custodial staff, we’re developing a compost pile (for all those apple cores), and drafting a green architectural policy that would require low-VOC paint and sustainable materials to be used in all future renovations.”


ISB is putting green into its curriculum as well as its operations. Climate change enrichment programs and environmental field trips and curriculum are being integrated at all grade levels.

“Kids need to see environmental awareness as a way of life, a whole mindset,” says Shannon. “By practicing what we preach, we teach our children to respect our natural resources and do their part to reduce our impact”.

Is your school doing something to reduce its impact on the environment? Tell us about it! -- Post a comment!


Nice article. I wonder what the parents know about the programs at the school. I think it must be tough to tell your kids that they have to drink the water from the school's lunch program and can't have juice boxes or other tasty things. Kids have a power of persuasion over parents shopping choices and I wonder if the parents or kids have comments about how the school program influences their environmental behavior at home.

Does the International School of Boston use the same acronym as the Islamic Society of Boston? I've heard them both use ISB in short. Also, the World Wrestling Federation and the World Wide Fund for Nature have often confused me, as a child of the 70's and 80's.

Interesting point. The lunch packs have good support from school community - parents and kids. ISB sent out information about it over the summer and again when the green packs were distributed. Between biweekly newsletter and newsflashes, the whole school community is aware of the various Green Initiatives.

As for WWF and ISB...I know World Wildlife Fund sued for rights to the acronym and won; thus far I don't know of any confusion with the Islamic Society...yet.
Margaret Desjardins
NeighborMedia 02138