The science is clear, global warming is causing disastrous climate change. But why should UK ELT take climate action? How can English language teachers or small ELT business owners do anything about the climate crisis?
We may not be oil magnates or cattle farming tycoons, but we are educators and business leaders in a sizeable UK industry with strong connections across our communities.
We can change our behaviour as individuals and businesses, raise awareness across our sector, in our classrooms and help students from around the world take action. Let’s talk to study abroad agents and educational tour operators, printers, caterers, homestay hosts, travel companies and more.
Our reach is huge and we can make a difference.
Like all UK individuals and industries, we are contributing to global warming, will be impacted by it and can help stop its worst effects. And, living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we have especially power hungry lifestyles that contribute the most to global warming.
What’s more, we are educators – a profession that invests in the future.
We have the opportunity to raise awareness among students and colleagues; a responsibility to empower our students with the knowledge and language they need to discuss and address the biggest global issues of our time; and duty to protect their future. Continuing ‘as normal’ is not neutral. We have to change what and how we teach to help build a sustainable and more equitable world. And students are increasingly looking for green credentials.
Whether you have been thinking about climate action and environmentalism for a minute or a decade, we welcome you to the green ELT movement. Take action.
Why should UK ELT take climate action?
It may feel overwhelming but we can make a difference – the world is of our making.
Time and time again, people have come together and transformed society – we have taken to the streets, town hall, the polls and the picket line to win better working conditions, fairer pay, suffrage, and ends to oppression, segregation and social injustice.
Together we can create a greener, fairer and safer world.
And action feels good. Taking action give us, our families, businesses and our planet the best hope for the future.
We may not be Instagram influencers but we are in a unique position to increase environmental awareness and positively influence behaviour among students and teachers and ELT colleagues around the world.
If we speak up and share our actions, we can inspire change those around us. Together we can create a #GreenELT movement.
Our ELT operations affect the environment. All businesses and processes do.
UK ELT welcomes half a million students to the UK each year – almost all of whom fly here. Once they are here, our students need accommodation, classrooms and computer rooms, meals, materials, activities and excursions. Our teams need offices and equipment, and our marketers fly around the world building relationships and securing business.
Of course, there are others who contribute far more than the UK ELT industry. And ‘fixing’ the climate crisis cannot fall solely to individuals and small businesses and tweaks to consumption.
The greatest stress on our planet is not how many people there are, but what and how much we consume.
The richest 1% has a carbon footprint twice the size of the poorest half of the world’s population combined. And the wealthiest 20% of the global population is responsible for 90% of “overshoot” carbon in the atmosphere (the level of carbon that exceeds the limit needed to keep global temperature rise below 2ºC).
To help you place these figures, if you earn over £13,250 a year you are in the richest 10% of people on the planet. (About 30% of people in the UK earn £13,200 or less, while an annual pre-tax income £39,800 would place you in the top 10% in the UK.) There is an enormous disparity in wealth, and in contribution to global warming, between the wealthiest and poorest nations.
Therefore, for climate action to both effective and just, the greatest changes must be made in wealthy nations. There is an extra onus on us in the UK, one of the richest and most carbon intense countries, to take climate action.
Early adoption of environmental responsibility will not only benefit our planet, but can also be an excellent marketing tool as concern about climate change grows.
People are changing their habits, products and services to align with their environmentalism and other ethics. Students looking to study English in the UK will be looking for schools that demonstrably understand their environmental responsibilities. And they will quickly see through any greenwashing as awareness and knowledge grows.
This applies to staff too. Teaching is a caring profession. You want a team that cares about the future of their students and profession. And they want a employer that does.
The UK is going to be impacted by climate change, everywhere is.
If we do not want to live with, or for our loved ones to live with, increasingly extreme storms, drought and flooding, food shortages and the spread of diseases carried by mosquitos and tics, we need to change our planets trajectory.
We can see where our planet is heading and what lies in store if we do nothing.