UNITE Guidebook

Table of Contents

Welcome to the UNITE Guidebook

Throughout the UNITE Sister School Network Campaign, you will be working with another group of students in a different country to learn more about how the climate crisis affects people around the world. Both you and your sister team will teach each other about your respective cultures and find the similarities (or differences) that make you unique! By learning about the climate crisis and each other’s culture, you will gain an understanding of how people live in different environments in addition to what changes you can make in your day to day life to help those around the world!

During UNITE, You Will...

  • Meet your sister school during a live zoom meeting or send videos introducing yourselves
  • Learn about the climate crisis and each other’s culture to share with your sister school
  • Pick a collaborative environmental project and a topic of culture to work on together
  • Collaborate on your selected eco-project to reach a goal while sharing about your culture through videos, pictures, or art.

Timeline

  • September – October
    • Get Ready: Introductions and Kick Off meeting with you and your sister school!
    • Stage 1: Learn about climate topics, culture, and research what life is like at your sister school!
  • October – January
    • Stage 2: Pick climate and cultural projects to collaborate on with your sister school and finalize project selection during your meeting!
  • January – April
    • Stage 3: Begin planning and carrying out your climate and cultural project.
    • Share your progress during each meeting with your sister school and report your impact!
  • April – May
    • Stage 4: Replicate/put together your projects to continue your learning and try something new!

Now, let’s get ready to meet each other and UNITE!

Stage 1: Learn About Climate and Culture

Learn About Climate and Culture

It’s important to know that every action you do, has an impact somewhere around the world. Whether you drive to a destination, purchase a new item, or change your diet, these decisions can change the atmosphere, temperature, or levels of pollution in another place.

What’s at Stake?

Watch this video from our favorite scientist, Bill Nye to learn how and why our climate is changing and what’s at stake.

Climate Topics

E-Waste is a Growing Problem

In 2021, humans generated 57.4 Million Metric Tonnes (Mt) of E-waste–a number that increases every year. Electronic items such as phones, televisions, computers, tablets, etc. are created with toxic substances like mercury that are harmful to the environment and humans. As humans continue to rely on technology across the world, the amount of E-Waste will continue to grow without protocols to ensure the majority of E-Waste is properly managed and recycled. The solution is to make smarter choices when buying these products and learn how to properly recycle our electronic waste. [1]

Landfills Accelerate Climate Change

Clothing, electronics, single-use plastics, and all the other stuff we buy/use has significant effects on our climate. If our waste is not recycled or burned, it will most likely end up in a landfill. Landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is created as organisms decompose organic materials below the surface. According to scientists, 25% of our current climate change crisis is driven by methane created by humans. If we reduce our use, manage our waste responsibly, and recycle to send less waste to landfills, we can help mitigate climate change. [2]

Plastics Are Immortal and Not Easily Recycled

Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics over the course of hundreds of years. Every year, around 380 million metric tons of plastic are being produced, with 150 million tons coming from single use plastics which are designed to be used once before being discarded. Where does all this plastic go? Most waste is either incinerated or landfilled–it is rarely recycled. However, all three of these options produce greenhouse gas emissions.The best solution to reduce greenhouse gasses caused by waste is to reduce our use of single use plastics and other products we don’t need. [3]

Food Waste Creates Greenhouse Gasses

It’s estimated that 30-40% of food in the US is thrown away every year. When done eating, many people throw their scraps in the trash, which creates food waste. That leftover food is often sent to landfills and as it rots, it releases a gas called methane. Methane is one of the leading greenhouse gasses that causes climate change. It is 28 times more powerful at heating the planet than carbon dioxide, one of the other major greenhouse gasses. [1]

Producing Food Has a Climate Impact

The process of growing the food we eat and getting it to stores/restaurants can be very carbon intensive. Some foods have a greater impact on our climate than others. For instance, Livestock accounts for about 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally according to the United Nations. What can you do to help? Making the choice to eat less meat every week can make a difference on your personal carbon footprint. [2]

Transporting Food Has a Climate Impact

Food miles refers to the distance food travels between production and when it reaches the consumer. The amount of emissions attributed to the transportation/delivery of food makes this another factor used when considering the environmental impact of food. In a single year, the total miles of international food transport contributed to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. This accounts for 8% of all global emissions per year. The best solution is to buy food from local sources in addition to reducing the amount of food we purchase. [3]

Deforestation Leads to Climate Change

CO2 emissions from tropical deforestation accounts for 10 percent of Greenhouse gas emissions. About 30 percent of carbon emissions can be absorbed by trees and soil which equates to 16 billion metric tons of CO2 annually. One acre of mature trees removes up to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide each year. When trees are cut down, we lose our natural carbon capture system which means there will be more carbon in the atmosphere leading to climate change. If we plant more trees or prevent deforestation, we could remove up to two-thirds of CO2 from earth’s atmosphere. [1]

Algal Blooms Negatively Affect the Environment

Direct sunlight, warmer water, and increased precipitation influenced by climate change provides the perfect opportunity for uncontrolled growth of blue-green algae. As climate change, illegal waste dumping, and run-off from agricultural lands continues, algae blooms will become more frequent which can suffocate aquatic plants and animals. Scientists have also discovered that specific algae species are harmful to the health of humans By convincing the government and local farmers to employ Best Management Practices, nutrients run-off can be prevented from entering water sources. International environmental education and political efforts to mitigate climate change are another yet longer term solution to help minimize the effects of climate change and the occurrences of algal blooms. [2]

Climate Change Can Lead to Extinction

As global temperatures continue to rise, the environment will change and some animal species will no longer be able to survive in their natural habitats. These conditions allow invasive species to thrive, further throwing the environment off balance. Without proper management of climate change, 33% of all species could be extinct within 50 years. Losing one-third of our plant and animal species will have irreversible consequences for human health, ecosystem functionality, and biodiversity. Keeping a balanced ecosystem means that we’ll have clean air and water, pollinated plants, and storage of carbon in trees and soil. With healthy ecosystems, we’re able to reduce 37% of the carbon emissions needed to prevent rising temperatures. [3]

Changing Climate Limits Resources

Climate change is an important issue for humans because it not only affects the climate, but it also affects natural resources. As global average temperatures continue to increase, weather patterns and seasons will become increasingly difficult to predict. This means resources humans have historically relied on, such as water reservoirs, will subside and it will be extremely difficult to predict when they will refill or when new sources will become available. [1]

Temperatures Affect Water Quality

In addition to climate change affecting the quantity of reservoirs, it also has a significant impact on the quality of water as well. As temperatures, waste dumping, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, pathogens that contaminate our water increase as well. This can lead to processes such as eutrophication, which is the overgrowth of bacteria and algae in aquatic systems. Consequences of eutrophication include reduced oxygen, reduced primary production (plant death), and loss of habitat for animals. [2]

Most Water is Used for Industry

While water is an important resource for maintaining all life on Earth, a majority of its uses by humans are centered around industry rather than drinking. In fact, high income countries use around 60% of our water reservoirs for industrial development and maintenance instead of drinking purposes. Some of these industrial processes include fossil fuel production, electricity turbine cooling, and cleaning of machinery. [2]

Plastic Affects Our Energy Consumption

While many people associate plastic with waste in regards to the climate crisis, it’s also a significant issue in the energy/transportation sector. The production, processing, and incineration of plastic is an intensive process that is responsible for emitting 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in a single year. If this is not addressed, this number could increase to 2.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050. [1]

Transportation is Largest Emitter

While there are many inputs to greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector contributes the largest percentage in the United States. In 2021, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions which included vehicles, air travel, shipping, and many more. Without proper reduction plans, emissions will continue to grow which can lead to issues like increasing temperatures, reduced air quality, and extreme weather events. [2]

Energy Use is Continuing to Grow

Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been emitting a significant amount of greenhouse gasses which has altered the global climate. In 2021 alone, humans were responsible for releasing 36.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere with a significant majority being used for the production of electricity. Every year, the magnitude of emissions continues to grow and the need for reduction becomes increasingly important. [3]

Learn About Culture

Now that you have learned more about the climate crisis, it’s time to learn more about global cultures!

Research Your Own Culture

Before meeting your sister school for a second time, your team will gather information about your country’s culture to share with your sister school. Using the questions below, answer how people in your country practice each cultural topic. Keep your answers on a piece of paper or computer document to share during your next meeting.

Traditions and Language
  • What are the main languages/dialects spoken in your country?
  • What are significant holidays that are celebrated every year?
  • What type of ethnic groups, tribes, subcultures, etc. do you have in your country?
  • How do people interact with one another? What are best practices when speaking with peers or your elders?
  • Where do people meet for large gatherings/events?
  • How are current events, news, or education shared throughout your country?
  • What are the most popular foods in your country?
  • What is the national dish of your country?
  • Is meat commonly eaten in dishes in your country?
  • What type of food is grown in your country?
  • What are the most popular fruits in your country?
  • When do people typically eat throughout the day?
  • What seasons do you have in your country and when do each of them occur?
  • What is the typical weather like during each season?
  • What is the size and population of the city you live in?
  • What are popular locations in your city/country and what are their functions?
  • What type of landscape do you have in your country (desert, rainforest, temperate forests, etc.)?
  • Where do people mostly live in your country? Do they live in the city, suburban areas, rural areas, etc.?
  • What type of clothing is typically worn day to day?
  • What type of clothing is worn for special events and how are they made?
  • What are the most popular sports in your country?
  • Who are famous public figures (musicians, artists, athletes, etc.) recognized in your country?
  • What type of music is played everyday and for special events?
  • What are the most popular instruments for music in your country?

Research Sister School’s Culture

Now, your team will research cultural practices about your sister school’s country. Using the questions below, research how your sister school’s country practices each cultural topic. Keep your answers on a piece of paper or computer document to share during your next meeting. This will help guide you to have questions to ask during your next meeting/video.

Traditions and Language
  • What are the main languages/dialects spoken in your sister school’s country?
  • What are significant holidays that are celebrated every year in your sister school’s country?
  • What type of ethnic groups, tribes, subcultures, etc. live in your sister school’s country?
  • How do people interact with one another in your sister school’s country? What are best practices when speaking with peers or your elders?
  • Where do people meet for large gatherings/events in your sister school’s country?
  • How are current events, news, or education shared throughout your sister school’s country?
  • What are the most popular foods in your sister school’s country?
  • What is the national dish of your sister school’s country?
  • Is meat commonly eaten in dishes in your sister school’s country?
  • What type of food is grown in your sister school’s country?
  • What are the most popular fruits in your sister school’s country?
  • When do people typically eat throughout the day in your sister school’s country?
  • What seasons do your sister’s school country have and when do each of them occur?
  • What is the typical weather like during each season in your sister school’s country?
  • What is the size and population of the city in your sister school’s country?
  • What are popular locations in your sister school’s city/country and what are their functions?
  • What type of landscape do exist in your sister school’s country (desert, rainforest, temperate forests, etc.)?
  • Where do people mostly live in your sister school’s country? Do they live in the city, suburban areas, rural areas, etc.?
  • What type of clothing is typically worn day to day in your sister school’s country?
  • What type of clothing is worn for special events and how are they made in your sister school’s country?
  • What are the most popular sports in your country in your sister school’s country?
  • Who are famous public figures (musicians, artists, athletes, etc.) recognized in your sister school’s country?
  • What type of music is played everyday and for special events in your sister school’s country?
  • What are the most popular instruments for music in your sister school’s country?

Meet Each Other (Live or Video)

Congratulations! You have finished Stage 1! Now it’s time to meet with your sister school and share what you have learned! After the meeting, you will move to Stage 2!

Stage 2: Pick Your Project

Pick Your Project

Now that you have learned about the climate crisis and each other’s culture, it’s time to select a project your groups want to work on together! During this stage, you will select 2 types of projects: an environmental project and a cultural project. Below, you will find steps on how to select a project for both types. Keep in mind that each project should be aimed towards a goal. Once your team/school has madea list of possible projects, you and your sister school will set up another meeting to finalize what you will be working on together.

Pick a Your Collaborative Eco-Project

In order to narrow down an eco-project you will collaborate on with your sister school, you will first need to pick a climate topic*. Choose your top 3 from the following:

After selecting your top 3 climate topics, you will then select a project idea for each selected topic. Example eco-projects can include the following:

Waste
  • Hosting a clean-up in your community
  • Educate the public on the impacts of waste and how to reduce it
  • Collect textile waste/old clothing to repurpose it into something useful
  • Educate the public on the benefits of reducing meat consumption
  • Set up a composting system at your school
  • Plant trees at your school or in your community
  • Create a garden at your school to plant flowers, vegetables, fruits, etc.
  • Educate the public on best practices to save water in the community
  • Educate the public on how to reduce pollutants from entering water systems including waste, pesticides, fertilizers, or surface runoff
  • Install rain barrels at your school or in your community
  • Educate the public on best practices to save electricity
  • Educate the public on how to reduce vehicle usage to limit carbon emissions

If you want to get creative, think of your own project that you would like to collaborate on! Remember to write your ideas down on a piece of paper or in a computer document to share at your next sister school meeting.

*Note: If you are already participating in the RISE Climate Solutions Campaign, you may use your existing project OR select an additional project to collaborate on with your sister school.

Pick Your Cultural Topic

Now that you have selected your eco-project, your school team will now pick a cultural topic to collaborate on with your sister school. Choose your top 2 from the following:
Traditions and Language
  • Create a video tutorial on how to say common phrases based on popular languages in your country
  • Create a poster on each of the ethnic groups, tribes, or subcultures that live in your country with basic phrases, foods, traditions, etc.
  • Create a short recipe book with dishes from each sister school 
    • Tip: Try to incorporate this with a plant friendly eco-project)
  • Create videos with tutorials on how to cook your country’s favorite dishes
  • Create a video and map with a visitor tour guide on the best places to visit in your community
  • Create picture book on some of the important landmarks in your city/country
  • Create a song or dance to share with your sister school
  • Create videos on how to create the clothing that is representative of your sister school’s culture

If you want to get creative, think of your own project that you would like to collaborate on! Remember to write your ideas down on a piece of paper or in a computer document to share at your next sister school meeting.

Meet Each Other (Live or Video)

Congratulations! You have finished Stage 2! Now it’s time to meet with your sister school, share the projects you thought of, and select eco/cultural projects to collaborate on for the rest of the year! After the meeting, you will move to Stage 3!

Stage 3: Collaborate

Collaborate on Your Projects

Now that you and your sister school have selected an eco and cultural project to collaborate on, it’s time to put it into action! Each project will have steps in order to collaborate on your projects effectively. You will meet with your sister school once per month to check on each other’s progress. Here are some steps to put your ideas into action!

Collaborate on Your Eco-Project

Step 1: Set a Goal

Set a goal you want to reach with your sister school. Make sure your goal is measurable, well defined, and has an end date.

  • Example Eco-Project Goal: Our sister school and I want to plant 100 trees together in our respective community by April 22.

Step 2: Choose Your Audience

Define who you will be educating in your community in order to achieve this goal. Will you need to educate people in your community, businesses, government officials, etc.?

  • Example Eco-Project Audience: We would like to educate the public on the positive impacts of tree planting in our community in addition to the community of our sister school.

Step 3: Create a Task List

Make a list of tasks that your team needs to do in order to finish your collaborative eco-project to completion. Make sure to define the exact task, the people who will be completing the task, and a deadline to complete the task.

Example Eco Task List
  • Task 1 
    • Task: Research types of trees to plant near library park and where to buy seeds/saplings
    • Deadline: November 1st  
    • Who: Zarinah
  • Task 2 
    • Task: Find an organization to donate tree saplings to plant in the community
    • Deadline: October 31st 
    • Who: Anjuli
  • Task 3
    • Create an educational flier for the community on the benefits of trees
    • Deadline November 5th
    • Who: Jane
  • Task 4
    • Task: Organize a tree planting event on our school to plan the trees
    • Deadline: December 20th 
    • Who: Glenn

Step 4: Put Your Project Into Action

Once you have completed steps 1-3, it’s time to put your project into action in your community. Make sure to write all of your progress down on a piece of paper or a computer document to share with your sister school at your next meeting.

Share Your Culture

Step 1: Set a Goal

Set a goal you want to share your culture with your sister school. Make sure your goal is measurable, well defined, and has an end date.

  • Example Cultural Project Goal: Our school wants to create 3 recipes for our collaborative recipe book by April 22.

Step 2: Create a Task List

Make a list of tasks that your team needs to do in order to finish your collaborative cultural project to completion. Make sure to define the exact task, the people who will be completing the task, and a deadline to complete the task.

Example Eco Task List
  • Task 1 
    • Task: Pick recipes that will be put into the collaborative cooking book
    • Deadline: November 1st  
    • Who: Zarinah
  • Task 2 
    • Task: Gather materials to create a short recipe book with our sister school
    • Deadline: October 31st 
    • Who: Anjuli
  • Task 3 
    • Task: Create step by step instructions on how to create a each recipe on a piece of paper or computer doc
    • Deadline: December 20th 
    • Who: Glenn

Step 3: Gather Your Materials

Define what you will need in order to carry out your cultural project. Remember to reuse whatever you can before purchasing any new materials.

  • Example Materials List: Video camera, paper, pens/pencils, old clothing, etc.

Step 4: Put Your Project Into Action

Once you have completed steps 1-3, it’s time to put your project into action. Make sure to write all of your progress down on a piece of paper or a computer document to share with your sister school at your next meeting.

Share Your Impact

Once you have completed your eco and cultural project, you will now share your work with your sister school. Here are some of the items you can share in addition to the best way to send them.

Eco-Project

  • Final metrics on your eco-project such as trees planted, waste reduced, people educated
    • You may share these items to your sister school via email, video, or during a live meeting. Contact your advisor in order to share these items.
  • Pictures or videos of students putting their eco-project into action
    • You may share these items via Google Drive or Whatsapp. Contact your advisor in order to share these items.
  • Posters, flyers, or art pieces of related to your eco-project
    • You may share these items to your sister school via email, video, or during a live meeting. Contact your advisor in order to share these items.

Cultural Project

  • Pictures or videos of students putting their cultural project into action
    • You may share these items via Google Drive or Whatsapp. Contact your advisor in order to share these items.
  • Written recipes, posters, brochures or flyers related to your cultural project
    • You may share these items to your sister school via email, video, or during a live meeting. Contact your advisor in order to share these items.

Meet Each Other (Live or Video)

Congratulations! You have finished Stage 3! Now it’s time to meet with your sister school, share the results of your project, and discuss some of your thoughts/questions! After the meeting, you will move to Stage 4!

Stage 4: Celebrate Your Impact

Congratulations! You have made it to the final stage of UNITE! After receiving the results of your collaborative eco-project and final cultural project, look over it with your team and see what you learned.

Learning Into Action

If you and your sister school picked a cultural project that can be replicated, organize a day where your team will put your sister school’s cultural project into practice! For example, you can do the following:

  • Create clothes that represent your sister school’s traditions
  • Cook a recipe that was given to you by your sister school
  • Create a video based on the phrases taught by your sister school
  • Add additional pages to a pictures book/recipe book you made together

If these actions are different from your project, get creative on ways to put your learning into action!

Celebrate Together

Now that you have put your learning into action, it’s time to celebrate your impact! Both teams will have a final Zoom meeting to reflect on what all of you have learned throughout the year. If you are having trouble hosting a Zoom meeting, create a “Thank You” video instead and share the best things you learned from your sister school throughout the year.

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