Article by Daun Yorke

M ajor Chinese cities are taking on recycling in a big way. Now is a perfect time to have conversations with our children about social and ethical responsibility. How can each one of us reduce our plastic footprint? As individuals, we can examine our consumption and consider our impact on the planet. Have your children lead the recycling campaign at home. Alternatives to one-use plastic bags, cups and drinking straws and containers are readily available in China. Work to turn your home into a one-use plastic-free haven. Start by monitoring the waste that you create in your home each week. How can you cut this down and live more sustainably?

In 2015, leaders of United Nations countries, leaders of major worldwide corporations and economists got together to discuss the most significant issues in the world today. They came up with 17 problems that plague our planet and drafted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as eradicating poverty and hunger. 2030 is the target year for world-wide solutions to be reached.

It’s easy to look at these significant issues and feel overwhelmed, adopting a sense of hopelessness about the future. Alternatively, we can talk about a future full of hope and look at ways each one of us can make a difference to planet earth. By eliminating one-use plastics, we can help address SDG #14, Life Below Water. An incredible amount of one-use plastics are floating in our oceans. Floating plastics have a direct impact on the health of the ocean and creatures that inhabit it, like birds and sea animals. Have a conversation with your family and friends and talk about what you can do at home to make an impact.

Some students here at XLIS have come up with some ways to combat global warming. For example, Jerry Liu and a team of students are looking at SDG #7 Affordable and Clean Energy. His group researched how to use the power from a bicycle to generate electricity. The students were given one week off the timetable in June to choose an SDG, and then to research and come up with solutions. In the coming year, Jerry plans to research and test his team’s ideas as the focus of his culminating Middle Years Programme Personal Project at school. Over the past two years, Jerry has spent 2-3 hours per week through project-based learning time to create an original computer game. After two years of independent research, trial, and error, he will sell that game online and use the profits to buy bicycles to test his SDG project of powering devices through pedal power. He hopes to have several bikes lined up in the school hallways, where students and staff members can exercise and generate energy at the same time. So, we can improve our fitness levels and charge our mobile phones at the same time.

Jerry and a handful of students will attend an SDG Summit in Shenzhen in September then work to set up a summit here in Xi’an later in the year and invite the world.

Another student, Annisha Salsiballa, took on SDG #5 (Gender equality) and led a team of students to create an original soundtrack about gender equality, stereotyping and gender ethics. This coming year, Annisha and her team will record their song “Boys and Girls are the Same” and share with the world through social media. The team question gender identification and gender bias. Anisha believes in the power of art to change the world. What can we do to combat gender inequality at home? Are our expectations, especially those for our sons and daughters, reinforcing inequality? We have to look at our actions and attitudes and support our children to help them support gender equality and equal work for equal pay. Girls and young women should grow up knowing that they can lead countries and corporations. They have the brainpower and strength to do anything.

A third superhero team raised money to purchase solar panels and attempt to use those panels to generate power for small devices like phones, iPads and PCs. They will set up some power stations throughout the school to charge devices. Could we use solar energy to power the lights in the school or at home? They continue to research and challenge their ideas.

So, what is your superpower? How can you, your child, your family provide a micro or macro solution for one of the SDG’s? How can you help to end poverty, support zero hunger, education for all, and gender equality? What can you do alone or in our communities?

There are some fantastic organizations in Xi’an that you can support financially or with your time and creativity. There are people in Xi’an who dedicate their energies to SDG #2 (Zero Hunger at places like the Yellow River Soup Kitchen. (Find them online at

Additionally, some organizations work to support SDG #4 (Quality Education for all), such as Little Fish, who teach migrant children and young adults with cognitive and physical challenges. WeChat: LittleFishinxian Get involved at home and in the community and encourage your family and friends to adopt a can-do attitude about how they can positively impact the planet.

In April 2020, schools from all over Xi’an and the world are invited to a Sustainable Development Goals Summit at XLIS. Students will gather together to work on the goals, share presentations and ideas, and listen to keynote speakers.