Faten Slem

Lebanon's Waste-Tackling School Project Wins Green Skills Award 2023

Faten Sleem’s zero waste project designed to tackle piles of rotting waste around her school near Beirut and instill a green awareness in her students has won the first prize in the ETF’s Green Skills Award 2023.

The scheme – born out of a frustration at the failure of local authorities to remove piles of festering garbage and clean up overflowing dustbins around Aley Mixed Intermeditate Public School near Mount Lebanon, a 20-minute drive from Beirut – became a passion project that aimed to both to tackle pollution and introduce green practices into the school curriculum.

Empower Minds, Transform the Future” beat more than 600 other entries from 60 countries for the prestigious green award.

The award is a “beacon of inspiration” for the school, its students and their community, “illustrating how education can be a catalyst for positive” change, says Faten, a science teacher and researcher.

“Winning the award represents the power of education in fostering a generation of environmentally conscious individuals,” she adds. “This accolade is a testament to the belief that equipping students with green skills is not just about winning awards, but creating lifelong learners committed to sustainable practices.”

The power of the project was in the way it combined practical and educational aspects, and the involvement of the entire school and local community.

A waste management plan was drawn up for the school, students were encouraged to use reusable containers, and prepare meals that created less waste, and they worked with local businesses and parents to promote sustainable production and consumption.

Green and sustainable subjects were incorporated into the curriculum and students produced awareness-raising brochures, along with bags printed with environmental messages. There were paper collections and free organic waste provided to local farmers to promote sustainable agricultural practices. There was even a partnership with a local detergents factory that agreed to begin providing reusable containers for its products.

The project has now evolved beyond its original target of waste reduction to a much wider philosophy, Faten says.

“We’ve not only implemented effective waste management strategies but also integrated comprehensive green skills into our curriculum, recognizing that students are lifelong learners, and these skills are an investment in their future.

“Our project now serves as a living example of the transformative role education can play in shaping communities.”

Students were now “equipped with the skills and mindset needed to address complex challenges.”

The focus is now on expanding and embedding sustainable practices in the school: “We are exploring partnerships to bring in experts who can further enrich our educational programmes, ensuring that our students graduate not just with knowledge, but with the skills to be lifelong contributors to a sustainable and thriving community.”

There was also now a wider discussion about sustainability in her city and region, Faten said. “The award has sparked conversations about the role of education in community transformation. It has drawn the attention of educational leaders, policymakers, and community member to the importance of integrating green skills into the curriculum.”

Creating Lebanon’s first zero-waste school was not easy, but Faten says similar initiatives can succeed if a methodological approach is taken.

“You need to recognize the transformative power of education. Approach your initiative as an investment in the future – empowering students not just with knowledge, but with the skills to be lifelong learners and contributors to a sustainable future. Collaborate widely, involving educators, students, community members, and local authorities.”

She believes the project won the ETF Green Skills Award 2023 because, it “stood out not just for its waste reduction strategies, but for its holistic approach to embedding green skills into the educational fabric.”

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