Heidi Spurrell | 20th March 2024 | 4min read

For this Member Spotlight, I caught up with Future Green Member: Chinese International School (CIS), one of Hong Kong’s leading international schools established in 1983. I met with Jerry Szombathy, Operational Director at the CIS, to learn about “Vision 33”- their sustainability plan.

 Jerry Szombathy, Operational Director at CIS

While CIS has been working towards sustainable practices for a while, “Vision 33” is their first strategic 10-year plan with one of the goals to become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2033.

Jerry tells me that this ambitious goal poses challenges due to their organisation’s size of over 2,000 students, the three-decade-old site, and the nature of operations, including food services and bussing services. As a result, Jerry candidly tells me their energy footprint is quite high, therefore CIS is slowly upgrading its facilities and amping up its efforts, particularly with a focus on its waste and energy management. 

Jerry at our 2023 Year End Event- Sustainability Social!

Behaviour Change Tactics –  A Great Way To Nudge Towards Sustainability

With sustainability embedded into CIS’s strategic decade-long plan, Jerry emphasises the foremost strategy is utilising behavioural change as a tool to shift student and staff attitudes towards minimising energy consumption and improving recycling. 

Team Work

To implement changes, CIS has a Sustainability Council, a committee of around 25 engaged students, parents, and staff. The Council has monthly plenary sessions to set tangible action -items mapped to a timeline with subcommittees called task forces focused on bringing about the change.

Jerry celebrating his certification with the Future Green team!

Task Force

One of the task forces that Jerry leads, focuses on educating the need to reduce electricity use throughout campus facilities. Sitting in an LED-lit room, Jerry shares that the School has comprehensively phased out old lighting fixtures and incandescent lighting for LED throughout campus with their next target being transitioning to energy-efficient AC models. 

Food Sustainability in Action

Another important project is collaborating with Future Green, to help create a framework for evaluating the foodservice providers’ promise to source sustainable ingredients and operate in sustainable ways. 

To mitigate the food service’s significant environmental footprint, CIS is now working with KIN (read Member Spotlight) as their foodservice provider. 

Presently, most of the food waste is directed towards the comprehensive composting system in the school’s garden where fruits and vegetables are grown by a teacher-led gardening team of students. The rest of the food waste goes to a local fish farm, further diverting waste from ending up in landfills.

 The EATrium by KIN

Jerry reiterates changing behaviour as the primary challenge, highlighting the tendency for students to discard items rather than sorting and reducing waste. An upcoming student-led project will focus on conducting a waste audit, where the waste will be documented and segregated to identify disposal patterns, recyclables, and improvement opportunities. 

Jerry is proud that The Council has evolved from a student-led group focused on beach cleanups to holistic programmes and students now lead sustainability initiatives and are crucial for progress and informed decision-making. With education and youth central to CIS’s mission, Jerry is optimistic about achieving CIS’s targets.

Canteen staff sorting waste after lunch!

By adopting a multipronged approach, CIS is making strides and Jerry is expressing confidence, and succinctly defining sustainability as “a key to our future” as without living sustainably, there won’t be a planet to inhabit. Lastly, being a Future Green member allows CIS to be part of a larger, like-minded community driving change. 

Read Jerry’s testimonial about his experience on our signature course, the Food Sustainability Foundations Course here:

Jerry shares thoughts on the Carbon Literacy Project at our event in Dec 2023