Registered: December 2012
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A Trashy Situation
For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in environmental conservation. I am currently a senior in high school, but I remember participating in community cleanups and after school ecological activities back in Grades 5 and 6. I have been a general member of environmental clubs consistently throughout elementary and high school (becoming the club leader in Grade 11 and keeping that role again this year). I have been a key part of conserving a wetland, and also participated in anti-idling and walk to school campaigns, numerous tree planting events, community cleanups and more. One of the recent actions I have taken is at my high school; the team and I carried out an awareness campaign around waste and recycling, with a focus on plastic water bottles, and ended with a waste audit.
The campaign lasted a week, and during this time we had daily factual announcements, posters up all around the school and a massive plastic water bottle sculptures displayed in the main atrium surrounded by facts. We had a guest speaker, Emily Hunter of Greenpeace, who spoke to students about environmental conservation and reusable water bottles. At the end of the week, we carried out a waste audit; we collected all the garbage/recycling from every room in the school and sorted everything into appropriate categories in order to see just how much waste our school produced and whether students knew what belonged where. The amount of garbage was overwhelming and it took six to seven hours for us to completely sort it. What we learned was that students used a lot of plastic water bottles, showing us that they seemed to be taking the campaign lightly. Feeling rather defeated, we wrapped up and decided to try again later on.
After regrouping, the club and I decided to continue our campaign. However, this time we bought reusable water bottles customized with our school logo and name; we felt it would be a good idea to promote an alternative and decided to sell these water bottles in conjunction with our campaign. We spoke to individual classes and we had people going around at lunch to inform other students about waste and recyclable products as well as plastic water bottles. Signs describing what products go where were added to classrooms and the library, and sign posts were attached to garbage cans in the cafeteria. The reusable water bottles were a hit, especially with the graduating class, and we sold quite a few. We also had a station were students were asked to sample tap and bottled water (though they did not know which was which) and say which tasted better. All in all, it was a truly chaotic week, but one that seemed to improve the student body’s knowledge on these issues.
Though the project seems small scale – after all it was contained with a single high school – it is sure to have positive effects on the community and environment. I am sure that students discussed the activities with their parents, who then become more aware about these issues and initiatives. Maybe these families put a little more time and effort into sorting their waste from then on. Maybe they told their friends and neighbours about it. Maybe they decided to participate in a local cleanup afterwards. Any one of these actions would help make the environment a little bit cleaner and safer for the small animals living in the area. Though this may seem like a minor project against large scale global issues such as climate change, deforestation and species extinction (to name a few), it is a starting point. It was vital to me to conduct such an activity in school, and not elsewhere in the community, in order to target youth and use this as a hands-on teaching tool to reinforce what is covered in class with respect to the planet. Many students may be more inclined to take part in other acts such as this; it is a great method of educating students on things that are wrong in the world and helps to create a new generation of environmental aware citizens, of whom I include myself.
Personally, doing research and hearing from prestigious men and women, such as Ms. Hunter, has only fed my interest and made me want to do more. I have been inspired to participate in several other initiatives led by various groups that I had not known of before. I have also seen the effects of this project around the school. In the weeks that followed, I noticed a drop in the number of students using plastic water bottles and saw more of the reusable bottles start to show up. It truly is a great feeling to see the positive effects of a job well done, especially when so much time had been spent ensuring its success.
In conclusion, this project is something that I will always look back on fondly. I believe that every human being, without exception, has a responsibility and a duty to help sustain our planet, regardless of race, gender, age and other defining features. The environment is something that transcends almost everything else on the planet, including any cultural difference, conflicts between countries and the economy. None of us would be able to survive without the environment and we have to take care of it as best as we can as a result. My project may be a small act in the grand scheme of things, but it is still a step towards ecological conservation and preservation. I know that I am capable of doing much more, and I will continue to strive for environmental protection, preservation and maintenance throughout my life.