The case for a Head of Sustainability in the School Management Team

We interviewed Ryan Geddes on his new appointment as the Head of Sustainability in the School Management Team at Western Province Preparatory School in Cape Town. Learn about Ryan's role, its importance for the school, his long term sustainability goals, how he plans to integrate sustainability into the school curriculum and more.

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A conversation with Ryan Geddes

We were lucky to get Ryan Geddes on a call to discuss his new role as Head of Sustainability at Western Province Preparatory School in Cape Town. The interview was extremely insightful and provided great insight into how we can incorporate Sustainability into school infrastructure, operations and curriculum. 

We have picked out some great insights from the interview and captured them below in each section. 

Why did your school decide to create this Head of Sustainability role? 

Sustainability initiatives in schools often fall by the wayside as new things come in. This position was created to ensure sustainability at our school has long term sustainability. We have ensured it is a governance position, it is on the board, it is in the management system, and it is now taken extremely seriously with an understanding of what society needs.

This position was created to avoid mistakes of the past and make sure that we as a school are giving this pillar a very strong foundation so that no matter what happens, sustainability at the school will continue to goww bigger and stronger over time.

What does the Head of Sustainability role entail, and what are your key responsibilities?

It is a large programme and portfolio, but these are the overarching priorities:

  1. Identify ways to make the school sustainable. 
  2. Make it accessible to the learners, through initiatives, and curriculum, and build learners that are actively involved as solutionaries making a difference.
  3. Look at the Building Committee and find ways to get off the grid and implement efficient water systems. 
  4. Keep the school up-to-date with the latest trends, such as the circular economy, and make sure our school’s values, curriculum and processes are in line with these trends and philosophies.

What are your Sustainability goals and priorities for the next 5 years?

  1. Change the curriculum and ensure each grade is accountable and the teachers are accountable.
  2. Create a sustainable school environment from energy, waste, water to food through infrastructure, posters and messaging. We want sustainability to become second nature with all the learners that pass through our school. We want to create learners that are sustainable leaders outside of the classroom, in their home environments and communities.
  3. Finding investors and funding for solar power energy and implementing greywater and more efficient water systems.

How is the move toward Sustainability going to benefit your school in the long run?

Financially, the initial investment is significant, however in the long run it will save the school money through rebates and savings.

Building the school profile and brand – we want to be seen as a school driving impact and contributing positively to society. We want to be a beacon to other schools and institutions so that we can attract the right learners and parents to our school.  

How does your school plan to integrate Sustainability curriculum into the classroom?

Yes, teachers can be overwhelmed, but we believe that this is not a debateable topic, it has to be done. It is very similar to the transformation challenge in schools and society, it has to be done.

We will be implementing a teacher sustainability hub, so that each teacher has to present how they are incorporating sustainability into their curriculum. This will help us create a broad picture of what and how the school is implementing sustainability into the curriculum. This hub will also provide teachers with the resources and frameworks to support them in doing so.  

It is not about changing the whole wheel, so as a Maths or English teacher it is just about adapting and rejuvenating what you are doing with sustainability examples, case studies and such.

Project-based learning is something we are doing, and this provides an easy platform to incorporate sustainability which is happening organically.  

Why should other schools consider creating a Head of Sustainability role in the school management team?

Given what is happening in society and the world, it is not something we can do in 5 years’ time, we must act right now. it can’t be left to future generations, because if we wait too long there may be no future generations. Every school should be sustainable. There are many schools that are trying, and it is so important for the school community to help each other on this journey.

Start small, start with a waste audit. Schools will be surprised by the support they receive from the parents, the community and others for going this route.

Listen to the full conversation

Starting your sustainability journey can be daunting, starting with waste is often the easiest first step. That’s why Plant the Seed has created a school waste audit. It is quick, affordable, and provides you with all the key insights and solutions to help you become a zero-waste school and contribute to a positive impact on the waste crisis. For more information please contact:

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