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Published by events, 2019-11-13 02:09:15

64-69 (1)

64-69 (1)

Environment 64


vegan values

Citing the astounding example of a
school in Chennai, Annesha Banerjee
apprises us about the possibilities of
a plant-based education and its plus

T he world is transforming at an alarming
rate and people are now taking charge,
with climate strikes and protests being

organised around the world on large scales.

Children and the youth form a big part of this

revolution, raising their voices for authorities

to take responsibility for their future. Imagine a

scenario where the upcoming generation is self-

aware and voluntarily takes actions to restore

harmony in nature. And what better place could

there be than a school, where children spend all

their day learning the basics of life and the world,

and to be holistically conscious?

India’s first ‘plant-based’ school in Chennai,
German International Academy (GIA), has
achieved this feat by taking steps to support
sustainability. This holistic education institute
became completely plant-powered in the academic
year 2017–2018. Going 100 per cent vegan, the
school was awarded the ‘compassionate school’
title by PETA India in 2017 for incorporating

65 LifePositive | NOVEMBER 2019

Environment 66

compassion, empathy, and healthy eating school states on their website: “Behind most
habits into their curriculum. of the joints of beef or chicken on our plates
is a phenomenally wasteful land-and-energy-
The warm ambience of GIA is evident as one hungry system of farming that devastates
walks through the gates: lush lawns with rabbits forests, pollutes oceans, rivers, seas, and air,
and chickens running around, ducks, goats and, depends on oil and coal, and is significantly
in fact, a cow too are housed in the premises! responsible for climate change.”
Their journey started when the school began
rescuing abandoned and injured animals from Acknowledged by PETA, milk consumption
the surrounding areas. As time went by, the by children can lead to intestinal problems,
management and students found it difficult obesity, chronic ear infections, asthma, and
and uncomfortable to eat meat with all the even diabetes, and scientists report that 33
rescued animals strolling outside, being petted per cent of Indians—including 70 per cent of
and cared for. Thomas A. Pallushek, advisor southern Indians—are lactose-intolerant. In
for International Schools in the Asia Pacific view of all these facts, the new menu of the
region and founder of GIA, says, “We felt it was school was decided upon, which reflected its
ethically not right. We wanted to reduce the commitment towards the environment. Each
human impact on the environment, and eating day, students are served with plant-based
less meat is the simplest way.” According to breakfast, lunch, and mid-afternoon snacks
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) which are prepared in the pure vegan kitchen of
raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk GIA. The school has gone all the way to ensure
generates 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse an age-appropriate and well-balanced meal
gas emissions, the second-highest source of for its students and faculty while substituting
emissions and greater than all transportation for animal products. The wide-variety meal
combined. plan includes fresh fruits, vegetables, grains,
legumes, nuts, and seeds. The health quotient
The vision of GIA of the food served is optimum with higher levels
One wonders why a school must become vegan. of antioxidants and lower levels of saturated fat
The idea is to become conscious of the impact and cholesterol. GIA is committed to serving
our choices create on the environment. Our fresh and seasonal local food to its students,
future depends on protecting the health and which additionally serves the purpose of
well-being of our children and the planet. promoting fair trade among the children as a
Educating future generations and equipping part of their curriculum.
them with skills to solve environmental
problems can go a long way in changing the Transition
deteriorating climatic conditions of the world Like any other process of change, this one too
at large. GIA offers holistic education to all had its teething problems. Having served pork,
its students and focuses on developing all the meat, fish, and dairy products to the students
dimensions of its students—ethical, moral, on its premises, the transition had to be gradual
social, and personal intelligence. And to truly and smooth. The process was systematic
serve their mission of sustainability, shifting as the kitchen staff, in the middle of 2016,
the campus lifestyle to veganism was the began reducing the amount of meat and dairy
only logical solution that stood strong. The served to the kids. Later, any resources or food

66 LifePositive | NOVEMBER 2019

products that weren’t vegan were completely without meat. Not all the students are vegan
eliminated. but, in school, they eat only vegan food. We
experiment a lot, e.g., we bake our own bread
Parents were made a part of the academy’s and make seitan (a meat substitute made of
transition to a vegan school. Said Mr Pallushek, wheat). We also make pizza and biryani using
“We called all the parents, asked them to taste alternatives. Barbecue pasta burger, smashed
45 varieties of vegan food, and they liked it. chickpeas, avocado sandwich, soft shell taco,
We invited a homoeopathic doctor to enlighten and garlic noodles are a few of the dishes on
the parents about the benefits of vegan food. the menu decided by our chef,” says Sandhya
Our students also like all the food that is being Mohan, Admissions Manager at the school.
served to them.” Starting from educating the
students and parents by screening documentary Impact of GIA
films to conducting debates, GIA went all As established by hundreds of researches and
out to introduce families to the nutritious, medical cases, a plant-based upbringing is
satisfactory, and delicious vegan cuisine. salubrious. Such diets provide children with all
the vitamins and minerals they need. In fact,
While GIA ensures healthy growth for their healthy eating habits from an early age prevent
students, it also emphasises the need for a unwanted ailments and help maintain healthy
proper substitution for animal products with body weight. With a plant-powered diet, all
alternatives that are high in proteins. They the sufficient energy and protein—packaged
make their own mock meat, produce vegan with other health-promoting nutrients such
cheese from cashews, and bake their own bread. as fibre, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and
The institute’s meal plan ensures that all the phytochemicals—are provided.
nutritional requirement of a child is met. Their
wholesome substitutes include quinoa, lentils, The purpose of the GIA isn’t just to offer
seitan, beans (black, kidney, mung, pinto), a vegan environment but also to assist the
hemp seeds, and much more. The daily display children in learning ethical and sustainable
of their mouth-watering vegan meals include eating habits. Throughout the year, the
dishes with cucumber avocado toast, pesto school, as a community, makes active efforts
pasta bake, zucchini bread, and applesauce, to endorse a low carbon footprint within its
as well as ratatouille, flavoured rice with dal, campus. Academically as well, their motto of
pumpkin spice muffins, and fruit smoothies. sustainability is maintained by using recycled
Now who wouldn’t want to eat that! materials to supplement the students’ art
projects and explorations. Besides, to make
Despite all the brownie points credited to the students aware of their responsibilities as
vegan curriculum of GIA, the school does not citizens of this planet, children are authorised
compel its students to become vegan. Children to lead projects that revolve around energy
attending the school may be consuming meat and water conservation, waste disposal, and
at home, but while at school, they can devour biodiversity. Students also attend cooking
an array of vegan dishes. Also, students have classes (incorporated in the curriculum),
one day per week where they can bring food learning to cook vegan dishes and enjoying the
from home, given that it isn’t meat-based. whole process.
“Our main aim is to provide one meal a day,

Environment 67

Students of GIA learn in a harmonious and animal-friendly environment

Under the pedagogic system followed by GIA Growing up in proximity to nature and
with a sophisticated project-oriented, bilingual, its beings, children tend to harbour more
and inter-year-based teaching concept, compassion, tolerance, peace, love, humility,
implementing and practising a vegan lifestyle and fearlessness, which builds the personality
was much easier. The impact of this educational foundation of these children. “This synergy
structure at GIA is positive and focuses on the with nature helps in the holistic development of
all-round growth of a child, ensuring that each children, especially the younger ones. It fosters
and every child is moulded into their own a healthy curiosity and wonderment, along
unique image, keeping in mind the essential with a social and environmental responsibility
pillars of everyday growth and learning. that is rarely found in cement-laden study
Creating a harmonious, caring, respectful, areas,” said Ms Kalpana, a faculty member. It
nurturing, and multicultural environment, the is safe to say that GIA’s thinking is far beyond
academy is committed to developing students just being vegan.
into pupils who are resilient and adaptable,
equipped with the knowledge, skills, and We hope that more institutions take the
disposition to continue their education and initiative and follow in the footsteps of GIA to
become personally fulfilled, interdependent, adopt a vegan environment to support the world
and socially responsible adults. in becoming a more ethical, environmental,
and resourceful place.

We welcome your comments and suggestions on this article.
Mail us at [email protected]

68 LifePositive | NOVEMBER 2019

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