Kodaikanal International School (KIS) joined the Green Schools Alliance in 2014, and has been committed to be a pioneer for environment protection and sustainability in the region. This has led to KIS receiving the Award for Excellence in Environmental Awareness from the International Aqua Foundation, which is given for significant achievement at the national or international level for Environment, including Water, Energy, Earth Sciences, Pollution Control, and Sustainability Solutions.

For this Award, KIS was recognized for its vital role of promoting Environment Awareness and Enhancing Water Efficiency. It was the only school amongst a number of government agencies, NGOs, corporations, and individuals nominated for the various awards. Clarence Maloney (Class of 1952) was asked by KIS to go and receive the award, at the XII World Aqua Congress, held in New Delhi on November 22-23.

In recent years, KIS has easily moved to emphasize modern environment issues, such as energy, water, recycling, and biodiversity, because of its long emphasis on nature. The school’s various academic, social, and community projects, and especially its Hiking and Camping Program, are well known for encouraging students to experience nature. “Students should develop a respect for the environment, both in terms of understanding individual and collective impacts, and as agents of change toward a healthier and more sustainable planet,” says Clarence Maloney.

In January 2016, KIS was recognized by the Green Schools Alliance as a Green School of the Month, for its achievements as regards solar panels, solar water heaters, water purifiers, roof water collection, groundwater recharge, drinking fountains, sewage treatment and re-us; also for trash recycling and composting, sholai (native) tree planting, waste flat paper re-use, etc. As a part of the holistic KIS education, all students take practical coursework in the Social and Environment Experience Department (SEED) on topics such as water resources, energy conservation, food waste, plastics, and global warming and are required to perform community service (installation of smokeless stoves, composting, native tree planting, sorting recyclable, clean-up around town, etc.).

Students can take the International Baccalaureate (IB) course, “Environmental Systems and Society” for a higher level of awareness. Also, many of them conduct their IB Senior Research projects on environment issues, such as anti-virus resistance and anti-fungal resistance in lake water, water quality below the town dump, effect of chemical fertilizers, and vermiculture of food waste.

These Palani Hills are a “sky island” at 2200m altitude, part of the Western Ghats which is one of the most biodiverse but threatened areas of the world, and has the large Kodaikanal Wildlife Reserve. KIS collaborates with the Forest Department, Municipality, and local schools and societies such as the Palani Hills Conservation Council, and INTAC. The school also has a 140-acre campsite, where students learn more about vegetation change and wildlife.

KIS is now setting up an Environment Education Center, where students, tourists, and researchers, can learn more about the ecology of these hills, as well as world issues of warming and ocean rise. This Center will be self-sufficient in energy, water, sewage treatment, and recycling, as an example.