Environment

French teens foster a greener high school in Toulouse

Students from Marcelin Berthelot high school in Toulouse are planting trees in a biodiversity corridor, as part of an "écolycée" or Green high school group initiative. March 2021.
Students from Marcelin Berthelot high school in Toulouse are planting trees in a biodiversity corridor, as part of an "écolycée" or Green high school group initiative. March 2021. © RFI / Pauline Bandelier

In Toulouse, in the southwest of France, a group of 30 students is working towards the ecological transition of their high school. With support from the headmaster and one of their teachers, they have already implemented over 40 projects.

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Everything started two years ago, when Yannis El Amraoui, a student of the Marcelin-Berthelot high school in Toulouse, decided to create an 'Ecolycée' or Greenhighschool group with 10 of his classmates.

“This project emerged from one observation: on the one hand, I saw motivated teenagers taking part in the climate demonstrations, and on the other, few concrete actions inside our high school were taken,” El Amraoui told RFI. The former high schooler is now studying to become an architect.

With the support of his life sciences teacher Cédric Metge, the small group of students started brainstorming ideas with two main goals: limiting the school’s impact on the environment and raising awareness about climate issues.

Over 20 projects implemented every year

The list of actions was then proposed to the school headmaster Frédéric Cros.

So far, around 40 have been implemented over the last two years: creating a biodiversity corridor, designing an exhibition to present pollutants and their green alternatives, inviting climate scientists to speak at conferences at the school, installing parking for bikes.

Frédéric Cros, Headmaster of the Marcelin Berthelot school in Toulouse, France, where students have set up an "Ecolycée" or Green Highschool Group, to limit the school’s impact on the environment and raise awareness about climate issues.
Frédéric Cros, Headmaster of the Marcelin Berthelot school in Toulouse, France, where students have set up an "Ecolycée" or Green Highschool Group, to limit the school’s impact on the environment and raise awareness about climate issues. © Pauline Bandelier

In the canteen, the students and the catering staff have worked together to inform the public about the amount of trash generated every month through communication campaigns, and as a result, the waste has been reduced by 50% over two years.  

"Every month, we have a meeting to evaluate the progress of each action” explains Edwige Pujol, one of the members of the Ecolycée group.

Eco delegate Edwige Pujol, from Marcelin Berthelot high school in Toulouse, standing in front of the future biodiversity corridor, March 2021.
Eco delegate Edwige Pujol, from Marcelin Berthelot high school in Toulouse, standing in front of the future biodiversity corridor, March 2021. © RFI / Pauline Bandelier

Cédric Metge helps them plan the implementation of their actions over a year and find external partners.

The biodiversity corridor was set up, for example, with the support of a botanist from the Toulouse Natural History Museum, who came to Marcelin-Berthelot to conduct a land assessment.

The so-called eco-delegates then turned to a local non-profit organization, which helped them find appropriate local species to plant.   

Reaching out across France and beyond

Yannis El Amraoui's main project, which he continues to follow from a distance, lycees-en-transition.com, is a sort of Wikipedia of high school students’ actions in favor of the environment. His goal is to reach out to other green high schools and connect them.

Students preparing a climate fresco at the Marcelin Berthelot high school, Toulouse, March 2021. Credit Nadine Guibbal
Students preparing a climate fresco at the Marcelin Berthelot high school, Toulouse, March 2021. Credit Nadine Guibbal © Nadine Guibbal

Thanks to the volunteer work of a former student from Marcelin-Berthelot, Jacques Soulé, now a retired computer science engineer, the professional-looking website has 7000 visits every month and an English version is underway. 

Frédéric Cros, the school’s headmaster is enthusiastic in his assessment of the group's efforts.

“Parents endorse and support them; everyone feels inclined to participate and it shows that we can conduct, all together, projects that improve daily life in our school," he says.

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