The CIS Whole-school Sustainability Review is a report on the environmental impact of CIS’s campus and operations. The review was conducted over the last twelve months by Metanoia, a firm of sustainability consultants specializing in schools, working closely with DITO students, and was made possible by the Annual Fund.


In addition to collecting and analyzing a lot of data about all aspects of the school’s operations from energy and waste to curriculum and governance, we interviewed classmates, teachers and admin staff, members of the leadership team, board members and parents and conducted several surveys. We presented the findings to the Leadership team in February and to the Board in June.


We also took part in a vision workshop at the end of last year to envision the long-term changes our work might bring about over the next 13 years leading up to the school’s 50th anniversary in 2033. Our visions of a sustainable CIS in 2033 form the final chapter of the Review.


This year we are excited about communicating the findings of the Sustainability Review to the school community and beginning to implement some of the more than 100 recommendations contained in the report.

The Executive Summary and full report may be accessed in the viewer below, along with other relevant excerpts and materials, including an interactive video on key audit findings.

Learn more about Metanoia through their website and social media!

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Dear CIS community,

It is an extraordinary privilege to be able to introduce what we hope will be not only riveting reading, but a veritable catalyst for transforming our school into an ever more nature-loving, eco- literate and sustainably developing community.


Upon joining Chinese International School two years ago, I made sure that my very first meeting with a co-curricular activity would be with our environmental team, “Drop in the Ocean,” affectionately known by its acronym DITO. What I discovered was astounding, beginning with our students’ unanimous,

wholehearted, electrifying conviction that humanity is capable of rising to the monumental challenge which climate change and other pressing environmental issues pose to our planet. The compassion, intelligence and imagination with which DITO members shared their ideas for creating a greener CIS were especially astonishing, and from our conversation on that day was born the plan for a student-led, expert-supported, school-wide sustainability audit, the fruits of which you will be encountering in the pages that follow.

On behalf of us all, please allow me to extend our deepest possible gratitude to the tens of students who have contributed in one way or another to our sustainability initiative, with particular respect for Year 13 student Louisa Choi for her truly outstanding leadership of what we will always consider to be a foundational action for CIS. Thank you very much as well to the fantastic team from the Hong Kong-based consultancy, Metanoia, for the remarkable scientific, technical and other expertise with which they have provided us, with redoubled appreciation to Anthony Dixon, its founder and our partner throughout this project. Eternal thanks to the CIS Annual Fund for so graciously funding this partnership. Our heartfelt gratitude, too, to Chinese International School teacher and sustainability champion, Matt Peterson, for tirelessly, passionately and carefully guiding, mentoring and otherwise encouraging our students since June 2019.


Last, but not least, we are also indebted to you, dear reader, for your interest in our sustainability commitment and above all for the part we sincerely hope you will play in helping us to implement its bold, uplifting, visionary recommendations.


As Lǎozǐ (老子) once wrote, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (千里之行, 始於足下).” May we forge ahead together!


Sean Lynch


In the 2018-2019 school year, I joined ‘Drop in the Ocean’ (DITO) to start taking action on sustainability. From the Tetra Pak removal campaign to biweekly beach clean ups, I was immersed in a group of similarly passionate and active students. While we were proud of our many achievements, we knew we could do more.


Through this sustainability audit, or “Footprint” as we call it, instead of investigating small issues one at a time, we looked at the school as a whole and started taking bigger steps towards holding ourselves and the school accountable for our impact on the environment. By doing so, we are not only advocating for environmental protection, but we are also teaching the community how to make effective change starting by assessing our current state, and making improvements from there. We are starting, quite literally, from the ground up and every little detail counts.


No matter whether you’re a Year 2 student, or the Head of School, environmental issues are relevant to you. This, for me, is why Footprint is so significant.


As the student leader of Footprint, I’ve seen how this audit has impacted my peers. After assessing what type of lights we use in our classrooms, students started noticing what lights were on in the classroom during class, leading us to ask: do we need all the lights on if we have natural light coming in through the windows? Can we open the windows instead of running the air- conditioning? Am I able to take the school bus to school instead of riding in my private car? I’ve also seen students take the skills they learnt in class, and apply them to Footprint. For example, areas that are discussed in the MYP and IB such as the learner profiles, including collaboration, risk taking and respect – all these skills that are at the core of curriculum we have been able to apply throughout this process. Footprint has helped us to see how we can put into practice what we learn at school to institute change and progress.


One of the most important takeaways I’ve had from my year of leading DTIO and Footprint is understanding the power of curiosity – of asking questions. With the support of the school, Footprint has taken our questions, and given them answers. In other words, we have turned conversations into action.

At our final Footprint event at the end of the 2018-19 school year, we all wrote letters to our current selves from our future selves in 2033. As I imagined what my thirty-year-old self would be saying, I realised how much innovation, opportunity and optimism Footprint has brought me. When reading about the environment, the news can often be saddening and disappointing. Yet, with Footprint, we accept the situation we are in, take responsibility, and put all our efforts into changing it.


To say I am proud of the work achieved this year by the Footprint group would be an understatement. I am proud not only of the work that has been done, but of the work that is still to come. I hope beyond just our school community, this way of thinking and passion for environmentalism will follow members of the CIS community into their personal lives, and wherever they may end up next.


Louisa Choi

PREFACE: ANTHONY DIXON -- Founder of Metanoia


On a Friday morning in March, 2019 about a thousand Hong Kong school students gathered peacefully in Chater Garden to add their voices to those of millions of other school students around the world calling for more urgent progress in addressing the climate crisis.

The response to their call from educators and government ranged from condescension to total silence with little in between. An Education Bureau spokesperson was quoted as saying “Any form of [class] boycott would disrupt order in schools and interfere in the normal learning of students and operation of schools. Schools are [the place] where students learn and grow.” One school principal, in an email to parents that was later made public in the South China Morning Post, characterized the strike as a “persuasive social media campaign” in which “fear of missing out” was the main driver for student participation. He promised to “speak to students about the difference between protest and meaningful action” and proposed that the students consider changing their habits instead: “[like] equipping themselves with their own cutlery set to save on disposable items in the dining areas.”


Not a word of acknowledgement from those quarters of the central issue – the seriousness of the climate threat to these students’ futures - much less any statements congratulating them on their leadership, initiative and civic engagement.


The local organisers of this first strike sought my advice on technical and strategic aspects of their position paper and their open letter to the environment minister which they presented at Tamar at the end of the march. Keeping my reservations about the prospects for its political impact to myself, I encouraged them to look for opportunities to make changes in their school campuses and communities as well. By all means demand that the government set a more ambitious renewable energy target than 3%, but what about putting solar on your school roof? Pressure the government to do a better job at recycling and reducing waste, but also examine your school’s progress on becoming paperless, or addressing its own waste? Do you know how many million kilometres your fellow students flew on overseas school trips last year? If you knew, what could you do about it? The campus where students spend eight hours a day for half the year is a vastly under- appreciated reservoir of possibility for learning and impact, not to mention a more immediate sphere of influence than Tamar.


There are seven hundred thousand school students in Hong Kong – 10% of the population. Many of them share Greta Thunberg’s fury that “our house is on fire and no one’s reacting,” as well as a deep sense of anxiety about the implications of our multiple ecological crises for their future. Condescension and silence must not be the only responses they hear.


I established Metanoia to offer schools a better way to respond to students on this issue - by engaging together to create the kind of deep transformation that a sustainable future requires and through that engagement, to “make hope possible, rather than despair convincing,” in the words of Raymond Williams.


Creating a sustainable school in this deep sense is no easy task. It’s no easy task because there is a lot to be done. Consider the hardware – less than inspiring campuses short on greenery, cooled year round, with energy inefficient building envelopes, no use of solar energy, millions of commuting kilometres in school buses using fossil fuel, unsustainably produced food, tons of waste sent to landfill. And who has the time to manage even one meaningful course correction here? Facilities managers have their hands full ensuring the smooth and continuing operations on which classes depend, teachers’ timetables are inflexible and full, and students’ afternoons are overflowing with extra-curricular activities.


It’s not an easy task because it also requires upgrading the “software” - hearts and minds. If a hardware upgrade can’t be commercially justified by the savings it will produce, might we agree there are other ways to measure its worth? Will the science department be content with the restrictions of a sustainable procurement policy when the best laboratory beakers happen to be made on the other side of the world? Will parents settle for reference letters issued on recycled paper? What of the contentious issue of mandatory busing? Is sustainability relevant to the mission of the school? How many students will choose to forego meat in the cafeteria even one day a week, or walk or bus to school when driving is more convenient?


It’s not an easy task because even if hearts and minds are willing, many people simply don’t know what actions matter, what really moves the needle or what’s technically feasible. I once heard a group of students give a polished presentation to their school’s leadership about an environmental strategy for the school they had worked on for months under the guidance of an external consultant. Their vision was laudable but their recommendations very high level – lots of evaluating, promoting, encouraging and supporting. When I asked them what one thing they would change to really impact the school’s environmental footprint, I heard five or six very different answers. It was clear that they had gathered no data and so had no idea which were the most important levers to pull.


Creating a sustainable school may not be an easy task, but the impact of the endeavour extends far beyond the campus boundary and the current cohort of students.


This is true, first of all, because schools are microcosms of the city. They share the same challenges of waste, air quality, energy inefficient buildings, infrastructure lock-in, and carbon emissions, combined with the constraints of space, time, money and expertise and a range of competing interests. But in schools, these problems show up at a more addressable scale and in a culture where the pedagogical paradigms of risk-taking, collaboration and experiential learning are more commonplace than they are in government, and solutions (and by this I don’t just mean technological ones) can be prototyped and innovations demonstrated to the wider community.


And second, because the 1.2 million school students who will graduate in Hong Kong in the next thirty years will represent almost 40% of the workforce in 2050. So the degree to which Hong Kong will be a sustainable city will be determined at least as much, I would argue, by educating for sustainability as it will by formulating policy and adopting new technology.


Metanoia exists to help schools unlock the sustainability learning that is embedded in the campus and the school’s daily life and to develop the capacity of students and schools to do the practical as well as critical intellectual work of becoming a truly sustainable community.


Our starting point is the technical whole-school sustainability review. Over the past year, in collaboration with an inspiring group of students from DITO and CIS Footprint, we have turned the spotlight on the efficiency of the lighting and air conditioning systems in their classrooms, the untapped potential for solar on the campus rooftops, the design of the school buildings, the food waste on their plates, the impact of their daily commute, what they’re taught about sustainability and what the school’s policies have to say about it. We offer our collective findings and recommendations for your consideration in the following pages.


Anthony Dixon



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