Knowledge is the most important resource if we want to reduce our carbon footprint together. This year’s Progress Report shows how ista supports social engagement in climate protection by contributing its own expertise. For example, in the project “ista schools in energy efficiency”. 

David Berg and Nils Pfingsten discussed energy efficiency in buildings with pupils at a grammar school in Berlin – and got some surprises in the process. 

“I was amazed how much the kids already knew about the subject,” says Nils Pfingsten. “Our questions were not new to them, we didn’t have to coax answers out of them, on the contrary: they immediately had their own ideas on what people can do to save energy in buildings – also in their own surroundings, in the school.” – “But of course the most exciting thing for them was to be able to hold the laser thermometer in their hands and go off measuring temperatures in the school building themselves,” David Berg recalls.

School visit by energy experts

Climate protection as part of the school curriculum: one Thursday in May, year-8 pupils of a grammar school in Berlin Wannsee were treated to a very practical lesson. They got a visit from ista during their sustainability lesson: David Berg and Nils Pfingsten came to talk with the pupils about a subject that has been part of both their daily working lives for over 25 years: energy efficiency and climate-friendly energy-saving measures in buildings. 

“What have you already used energy for this morning?” The guests get the same answer to this introductory question again and again: “For my mobile!” The fact that the pupils are allowed just this once to use their smartphones in class for the climate protection lesson is a real icebreaker.  

Right at the beginning they are asked to scan a QR code and then take part in a short survey. “Of course, they thought that was totally cool,” says David Berg, who himself has a ten-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. “And there we also noticed just how much technology has long since become part of everyday life for the children: for them it is a perfectly normal to get information 24/7 from all over the world.”

Footprint with a lightbulb moment

Face-to-face knowledge transfer is a real enrichment for both parties. As part of the educational project “ista schools in energy efficiency”, ista employees have been making regular visits to schools since 2017 to talk to classes about energy consumption and emissions in the building sector. During these visits, they give practical tips on what each and every one of us can do to conserve resources and protect the environment.  

Together with the non-profit association BildungsCent e.V., ista has also launched the Climate Package Programme: participating school classes receive six packages with information on the climate protection aspects energy, buildings, industry, transport, agriculture and forestry. Each package contains learning material and various suggestions for getting actively involved. ista also made the visit to the Berlin school in cooperation with BildungsCent e.V.  

Before Nils Pfingsten and David Berg move onto the subject of energy in buildings, they give the pupils a few basic facts and start by asking the question: how big is our actual carbon footprint on average? “The fact that it is 10.8 tonnes of CO2 per person in Germany – more than ten times higher than the target figure recommended by the Federal Environment Agency – was a real lightbulb moment for the children,” David Berg remembers. “However, when asked to estimate the share of building energy, namely 20%, they were then surprisingly spot on,” says an impressed Nils Pfingsten. When it comes to emissions, many would first think of road traffic or smoking factory chimneys.

Finding weak spots with the laser thermometer

The climate protection lesson is then all about how that 20% can be reduced. Ventilating rooms properly, heating economically – the lesson tackles these subjects in a very practical way, taking the school as an example. Equipped with a checklist and laser thermometer, two groups fan out in search of weak spots in the building: where are windows or walls badly insulated so a lot of energy is lost? Which radiators don’t have thermostatic radiator valves so the temperature cannot be regulated by hand? Where are desks, cupboards or shelves standing in front of radiators so the warm air cannot circulate properly? 

The two ista employees also need teaching skills on their tour of the school building. “Keeping a wild bunch of kids together and focused on the actual task in hand certainly wasn’t easy,” David Berg laughs. When you break the standard lesson mould to do something creative, there are a whole lot of distractions waiting in the corridors that can make teenagers temporarily lose sight of what they are supposed to be doing. Nils Pfingsten, who himself has 14-year-old daughter, knows that all too well.

Achieving a big effect with small changes

However, everyone is back in the classroom just in time for the evaluation. Now an action plan is drawn up and responsibilities are designated: after the summer holidays, Felix will ensure that the windows are not permanently in the tilt position, but only opened for a short time to let fresh air in. Gana says she will make sure that nothing is standing in front of the radiators. Onno collects suggestions that could have an even greater effect, but which the pupils cannot decide on alone: 

Could the building be better insulated? Can the school use more renewable energies? Would it be possible to automatically control the heating so the temperature is reduced to a minimum automatically at the weekends? “Of course, somebody would have to make money available for such things,” says Nils Pfingsten. “However, I thought it was really awesome that they came up with these suggestions, and the teacher could well imagine using them as a basis for a discussion with the school management.” 

Even small steps count

The two energy experts enjoyed their trip out of their ista office into the unknown territory school. “I often have the impression that climate change is discussed in a very abstract way,” says Nils Pfingsten. “I hope that our visit helped to make the kids a little bit more aware of what CO2 emissions they themselves cause – and what they could do to protect the climate by changing their own behaviour.” 

David Berg agrees: “I believe the children are very much aware that we do not have a second earth in reserve. And I hope we were able to show them that even small measures count.”

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