July 2009 issue

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Going green

A school’s environmental policy is not relevant in the decision-making process for students, say agents, and “green” schools agree that their policy is not a vote-winner, per se. Rather, their environmental initiatives reflect personal beliefs but also a slowly emerging consumer choice that some nationalities will recognise and appreciate, and others are intrigued to discover. Amy Baker reports.

As a bit of a ‘greeny’, I felt like a bit of a hypocrite to have one set of values in my private life and a different set of values for the business,” says Mick Edwards of Sydney English Academy (SEA) in Australia, adding, “From a business point of view, we felt it was another way of distinguishing ourselves from the rest of the market.”

Edwards sums up the rationale behind the slow development of environmental policies among language schools; primarily in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, although a number of schools in many countries are making small steps towards becoming more environmentally-aware. For example, Alessandro Adorno of Babilonia in Italy, says, “At the moment, we recycle paper and ink and try to have things online as much as we can.”

Adorno sums up his standpoint on taking steps to be more green: “As far as I am concerned, the issue is not about conforming to an external need,” he says. “We want to be more green because we believe we all have to be more green in life.” When asked which nationalities respond most positively to such efforts, he continues, “I think that clients from Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands are certainly more aware of this issue and look in a favourable way on green policies.”

SEA in Australia is quite advanced in its green initiatives and in fact won an award from the local council for sustainable business practice in 2008. Edwards explains that the award was for being 100 per cent carbon neutral and the school’s recycling programme: “At present we pay a premium on our energy use so that the electricity is sourced from recyclable sources,” he explains. “We use the same provider as before but pay a higher rate. We have tried to offset the extra cost by having policies in place to reduce our overall use of electricity.” He says all staff are very supportive of the aims in this area.

“We have found our energy use has decreased significantly to previous years,” Edwards notes. “We also have a full recycle programme in the school such as paper, bottles, metal etc. Directors’ flights for marketing trips include an extra fee for carbon offsets also.”

Edwards points to German and Japanese students as those most supportive about such initiatives: “We have quite a high proportion of European students at SEA and we find some of the German students are very positive about our efforts. Japanese are well known for their recycling and so they are also very supportive.”

Languages International in New Zealand, meanwhile, announced last year that the school was the world’s first certified carbon-neutral private English language school. Darren Conway, Chief Executive, explained at the time that the school measured the energy used in the operation of the two school sites – such as electricity and gas as well as air miles from business travel – and then offset the carbon emissions from this energy use by buying carbon credits from a New Zealand company called Offset the Rest.

Brett Shirreffs, Markerting Manager at the schools, observes, however, “There’s a gap between what people say (“I’ll definitely choose a carbon-neutral supplier over competitors”) and what they actually do when it comes to the crunch, and we’re noticing that,” adding that the school is planning to make more of its carbon-neutral initiatives.

Nonetheless, Shirreffs observes that there have been other tangible benefits, even if these are not concerning the end client. “We’re happy that [our effort] has been noticed in the wider NZ community and in the local and international EFL world: basically, it fits our profile,” he states, adding that as well as setting a good corporate example, it engenders a feelgood factor for staff. “It has had a positive impact on our staff, who like belonging to an organisation in which green issues are important and are in general keen to participate and contribute.”

Conway made an interesting point when announcing his school’s “green” status – that the school was pre-empting a possible concern among students about long-haul air travel, which almost all English language students would undertake to reach New Zealand. “We think it’s wise to consider international students’ concerns about the environmental cost of coming all the way [to New Zealand] to study,” he said.

Considering green issues within an industry that hinges on international air travel is perhaps a contradiction in itself, but, as Shirreffs underlines, a stated philosophy doesn’t always inform purchasing decisions: indeed, a return to overland travel because of green convictions is unlikely, although an increasing expectation of best practice as regards sustainability is likely, however far you fly to find it.

In the UK, Cactus Language does actively recommend overland travel where possible to its outbound clients, according to Richard Bradford at the company. He says, “Where possible, we encourage our clients to take alternative transport such as trains and coaches. Where air travel is necessary, we strongly urge our clients to consider offsetting their carbon dioxide emissions.”

At the Cactus website, interactive route maps give comparisons between travelling to popular destinations by plane and train, outlining the cost, time and CO2 emissions. Bradford points out that more traditional travel can contribute to the authenticity of the educational travel trip that clients are undertaking: “When you read of old-style voyages, the journey was every bit as exciting as the getting there,” he says. “With the advent of rapid ‘get there quick’ travel and mp3 players, much of the encounters, experiences, sights and conversations along the way have disappeared and turned travel into a sterile experience. With Cactus, you’re travelling abroad in search of new cultures, civilisations and better international understanding. What better way to get the process started than to travel in a way that exposes you to other people?”

Like some of the other companies involved in this article, Cactus has a wide-ranging approach to green issues: the company recycles everything including ground coffee and tea for composting; brochures are online only; and staff receive a day in lieu for their extra travel time if they don’t fly to a destination but use alternative transport. “Cactus is also pioneering language holidays at home,” says Bradford, “where people from the UK can live for a week with, for example, a Spanish family and have lessons within a Spanish micro-climate.”

Other advocates of green issues are the Canadian College and Canadian College of English Language (CCEL) and both are aiming to be paperless schools (as much as is possible), as is ILSC, which has three branches across Canada. Zach Taylor at CCEL and Canadian College Group, (which also has branches in NZ and the USA), explains that diploma courses are taught with an online textbook from the publisher; both the schools and restaurant have moved to online billing and bill payment and a completely digital fax machine is used. This is in addition to recycling initiatives that include composting all kitchen scraps in the rooftop garden, which grows herbs and spices for use in the restaurant.

Michael Lisonbee at Eurocentres Canada in Vancouver notes that his school received a “Go Green” certificate and that it has made changes such as using movement-sensor lighting and energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems. He says, “[Sustainability] is a global issue which is gaining more importance and the trend has been for corporations to become as environmentally friendly as possible and we also see this extending to the language teaching industry.”

Nadine Baladi at ILSC points to the educational role that schools play in helping to promote green issues too. “We think that, ultimately, we are responsible for developing among staff and students an appreciation of their role in bringing about environmental improvement both as members of the school community and of society at large.”


Going one step further than operating within an environmentally aware infrastructure is teaching environmental concerns to language students, alongside language tuition. This is what Taupo Language & Outdoor Education Centre in New Zealand offers. Mary-Rose Blackley, Director of the school, explains why: “It was a Japanese agent who requested this programme,” she says. “The market is small and usually older and it does depend on the student’s level of English, and nationality, as to their commitment and understanding of the topic.”

That said, Blackley explains that most students enrolling at the school, which is situated in an area of natural beauty, enjoy living close to nature and participating in composting, respecting the wilderness and unpolluted environment. “Otherwise they would be going to a city language school. Studying English in Taupo is virtually living in nature, [attracting] the type of student who respects the environment anyway,” she comments.

The Eco-English programme analyses how to measure carbon footprints; recycling and waste management; students visit a solar-powered house and survey their host family’s attitude to eco issues. Protection of endangered species and the freshwater environment is also covered, as is composting, with a visit to an organic farm also organised for students.

Blackley says, “In Taupo, the water supply is from the lake; students are shocked that they can drink this water and it tastes beautiful.” Other initiatives at the school include an encouragement of walking to school or car pooling among host families. Blackley says that airport pick-ups can also be arranged to avoid two trips in one day. “Sometimes, students arriving on an early flight will have to wait half a day for students arriving on a later flight. We suggest they go into Auckland city, take a city bus tour or go shopping nearby.”

Contact any advertiser in this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





Britannia Student

Feltom Malta  
Perth Education City
Quality English  

Alphe Conferences  
International House
      World Organisation  
Feltom Malta  


Malta Tourism


Perth Education City

Bics (Business & Intl

Berlitz Canada  
Elmwood School  
Richmond School
      District #38  
Stewart College of

IH Xi'an  

      Latinoamericana de
Andean Global
      Studies Spanish
Estudio Internacional
      Sampere, Ecuador  
South American
      Language Center  

Bell International  
Britannia Student
Kaplan Aspect  
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand, South
      Africa, UK, USA)
LAL Language and
      (Canada, Cyprus,
      Ireland, England,
      South Africa, Spain,
      Switzerland, USA)
Malvern House
      College London  
Shakespeare College
Spinnaker College
Quality English
Queen Ethelburga's
St Giles Colleges  
      (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group  
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
TUS Advertising  
Twin Group  
      (Ireland, UK, USA)
University of Essex -

Home Language
(Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Egypt, Finland, France, Greece, The Netherlands, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, USA, Wales)

International House
      Berlin - Prolog  


Galway Cultural
      (via Impact Media)  

Kai Japanese
      Language School  

Clubclass Residential
      Language School  
EC English
      (England, Malta,
      South Africa, USA)
Feltom Malta  
Malta Tourism

Seafield School
      of English  

EC Cape Town  
      Cape Town- One
      World Language
Good Hope Studies  
inlingua Language
      Training Centre
      Cape Town  
Interlink School
      of Languages  
International House
      Cape Town  
LAL Cape Town  
Language Teaching
Shane Global
      Language Centres -
      Cape Town  

Malaca Instituto -
      Club Hispanico SL  
Pamplona Learning
      Spanish Institute  

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd  
(Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, USA)
Eurocentres International  
(Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, USA)

Califorinia State
      University Northridge
ELS Language
      (Canada, USA)
San Diego State
University of
      California San Diego
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)

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