GLOBAL environmental concerns such as climate change, depletion of the ozone layer and plastic pollution can be best addressed by governments through their policies, laws and commitments to international agreements. However, this doesn’t mean that our individual actions are insignificant. If we all do our part no matter how small, the world would be a better place to live in.

Even students can make a dent in the fight to protect and preserve nature. Take the case of the mangrove planting project of Bonuan Boquig National High School in Dagupan City. The project is so successful that it was shortlisted in the World’s Best School Prizes, Environmental Action category, by the international educational group T4 Education. They will be competing against nine other schools from different countries. If they win, they will receive a $50,000 prize.

In 2009, Typhoon Pepeng left two-thirds of Dagupan City submerged in flood water. Fishponds, rice fields, and other industries in the community were heavily damaged. The city government of Dagupan, aware of its geographical challenges on land that is only one meter above sea level, started dredging rivers to reduce the impact of the flood, but it came with unintended consequences.

The mangroves died off as a result, exposing the rivers to the direct heat of the sun and killing off aquatic life essential to the ecosystem. Fish, crabs and other shellfish disappeared from the rivers. Students and their families relied on catching fish to eat. With their main source of sustenance gone, many students went absent from class as they had to work to support their families.

Bonuan Buquig National High School took action to support its students and save the local environment. Galvanising over a hundred volunteers, it plants thousands of mangrove propagules each year and has provided new habitats and shelter for fish. As a result, the mangroves along the Longos river banks are nearly rehabilitated and stabilized.

I read the accomplishments of the other nine contenders. The Bonuan Boquig mangrove planting project is the only one with a direct impact to the community not only in terms of environmental protection, but in livelihood as well. I have a strong feeling that they will get the award.

If Bonuan Buquig National High School were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action, it would use the funds to build a nursery that could house around 50,000 mangrove seedlings a year and push much-needed research to improve the techniques and technology on mangrove propagation and preservation.

Schools can do other projects that will benefit the environment and provide cash as well. One good example is a paper recycling project. It can easily be implemented since schools generate large amount of wastepaper. I helped some schools start a project like this and most of them were successful.