Green is the way for Kristie Lear – not only as she leads the ZIS sustainability efforts but also in her daily life.
As head of the group responsible for a whole school approach to sustainability at ZIS, Kristie Lear is proud to practise what she preaches.
A big fan of sustainable food systems, she uses local and seasonal produce whenever she can; she’s conscious of reducing her carbon footprint by exploring new locations closer to home; and she hasn’t let her urban lifestyle get in the way of her love of home gardening, using pots on her apartment balcony to keep her in greens.
“I am also interested in the relationship between urban design and sustainability,” says Kristie. “I am fascinated with how architects, engineers and city planners are designing for more sustainable cities and often using nature as an active part of the design.”
There are lots of examples in Zurich itself, she says. “There are repurposed buildings, living roofs and walls and community gardens everywhere. Just the fact that you can swim in the river running right through the city is incredible. I often visit cities around Europe and I am always looking for ways that urban design and sustainability are changing cities for the future.”
Kristie’s interest developed from an early awareness of her own carbon footprint to taking more of a world view, looking at the bigger picture of cultural values systems and notions of success. “That’s why I thought education would be a good place to start,” she says, citing a visit to a school in Kodaikanal, India, which inspired her to explore how ideas of sustainability could be incorporated into the world of education.
While leading the ZIS Innovates action research committee and helping develop the school’s approach to sustainability, she was completing her M.Ed in Sustainability Education at Antioch University in the United States.
“Being able to connect my Master’s with the ZIS Innovates initiative was a great opportunity,” she says. Last spring she went on an Upper School Classroom Without Walls trip focused on urban design and sustainability in Copenhagen, Denmark, and she is currently working on a project to restructure the garden at the Lower School.
“ I want spaces like the garden and the forest to be considered as living classrooms.”
“I want spaces like the garden and the forest to be considered as living classrooms that we can learn from. The challenge for an international school is that having a sense of place is an important part of sustainability education, but for our children that place is often global.
“However, we are fortunate to live in Switzerland, ranked second in sustainability measures research last year and with incredible resources and perspectives on sustainability.”
And the future? As well as learning about bee-keeping, Kristie is looking forward to becoming even more active in her local community where, she says, there are a lot of interesting speakers and events that relate to sustainability issues and ideas.
“I am also really interested in getting a certificate in biomimicry, which is a field that develops innovative sustainable solutions using design principles from nature and ecology. I think this would be a great way to develop the science/social studies curriculum in the future.”
WORDS MEGAN WELFORD PHOTOGRAPHY NATO WELTON