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The IH Network Hugs the Earth and our 40,000 km target

Published Bernice on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 12:00 AM

The IH Network Hugs the Earth and our 40,000 km target

Since February 2020 International House World Organisation (IHWO) has been active with new projects and initiatives to raise the issue of environmental sustainability throughout our network and in the language teaching industry.

All of these initiatives seek to safeguard our planet and minimise the negative impacts we have on our environment. Our ambition is that the International House network of schools will lead the way in the ELT industry and make a real difference for the future of our precious planet.  

The 40,000 km walk challenge

Our most recent initiative was a 40,000 walk challenge which took place from October – December 2021. 40,000 km is the circumference of the earth and we called upon the whole IH community to collectively walk this distance by changing their habits and walking (or cycling) instead of using cars and other harmful CO2 emitting transport.

So many of our schools embraced this challenge in imaginative and enthusiastic ways. As they monitored the number of kilometres, they had walked within their school they created virtual travel routes to meet friends and colleagues in different countries, visited places of environmental or historical interest and explored the health benefits with one school introducing walking meetings too. We were also delighted to see many teachers and students using their bikes, and we hope this change in habit will continue.

We are very proud to say that by the end of December 2021 staff and students in IH schools had broken our target and walked a total of 56,506km.

“ We would like to congratulate all the staff and students in IH schools who took part in this challenge, and we hope that this has started a change to permanent sustainable habits.” Beccy Wigglesworth - Director Member Services and Client Experience at IHWO. 

IH Schools Leaderboard

Some schools really embraced this challenge, here is the leaderboard of the top ten schools.

The school that covered the most kilometres is IH Rome Accademia Britannica in Italy. Their staff fully embraced the philosophy of changing the way they go about their daily lives, and many staff used bikes to get to work or meet friends socially. You can read more about how they achieved this here.

The Director of Studies at IH Rome Accademia Britannica says, "The Covid pandemic taught us that it is possible to live and work differently. Global warming tells us that both individuals and companies MUST do all they can to reduce car journeys and carbon emissions and accommodate work from home where possible."

The IH Sydney group of schools (Sydney City, Bondi, Darwin, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Byron Bay) joined together to set local challenges for staff and students to “virtually” walk to interesting places. For example, staff and students from IH Melbourne “virtually” walked to the great Ocean Road; staff and students from IH Darwin “virtually” walked to Uluru, and those in Gold Coast walked to The Great Barrier Reef.  All their combined efforts meant they came second on the leaderboard.

Third was IH Torres Vedras in Portugal. It was great to hear from the school that from the very beginning the whole team were excited about the project. As you can read in this article (, they started with a visible grid in school, where staff recorded their totals each week. This must have been motivating for the whole team to keep going - it clearly worked! 

IH Reggio Calabria, in Italy, were fourth on the leaderboard, walking a total of 6134km. They teach a lot of younger learners, whose little faces are a constant reminder to them of the urgent need to take action to build a better, more sustainable future for the coming generations. So taking part in this challenge was a no-brainer for them. Read about their challenge to walk to Cambridge in the UK – which they achieved!

Their coordinator said "Tracking our progress each week, it’s been awesome to see how everyone’s commitment to making a small change can have such a big impact and it’s really spurred us on to think about how we can introduce sustainability into all areas of the school."

Fifth on the leaderboard is IH Braga in Portugal. Getting students involved was the key to success for them, and although they only started in November their December total rocketed them up the leaderboard. In sixth place was IH Bristol who also involved their students.

Although they walked a total of 3555km, IH Arezzo (in Italy) was just seventh on the leaderboard. We don’t think they will mind however. They decided they wanted the project to be a nice bonding opportunity for all staff, which it definitely turned out to be. They decided to “walk” to their friends in IH Lacunza to meet a surprised VIP to share with our students on a Zoom call. The walk from Arezzo was 1,391km, which they achieved in their first month! From there, they walked back through Catalonia to give the parents of one of their teachers a virtual hug, and then returned home in time for Christmas. 

As well as a bonding opportunity, taking part in the challenge inspired the team to make a long-lasting commitment to the environment and they have already planned more events and activities for students to raise awareness about sustainability issues. That is a real result

Eight on the leaderboard was IH Bucharest, ninth was IH Stavropol (who walked to Rome!) and tenth was IH Dusseldorf. 

We would like to thank and congratulate all the staff and students in these schools, and we hope that this has started a change to permanent sustainable habits! 

The IHWO Team also got involved - Beccy, Giuliana, Karolina, Katja Marta and Lucy put on their woolly hats, fleeces, and warm jackets, to “virtually” walk around the North Pole on the arctic ice shelf. They set themselves the target of walking 100km each, instead of using the car or other CO2 emitting transport.  

More information about all the International House commitments to Environmental Sustainability.

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