In 2000, scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer used the concept of the anthropocene to describe the epoch we have reached, denoting the ever increasing effect of humans on earth. There is no part of the world that is unaffected by the existence of humans and this realization brings us to an ever worrying, and sometimes moralistic discussion on the role of humans on this earth.
With the increasing speed of climate change, numerous natural crises and the growing garbage patches littered in our oceans, it is clear that something has to be done with the way we interact with our environment. We have created a system of disconnection, where we no longer know how our household items are made. We no longer know where it comes from or where it goes after we have used it. When we reconnect the links between production and consumption, we can start making differences to the way we interact with it.
If we only knew what it took to make a plastic bag, and what happens when it is thrown away, it may change the way we think about them. And this starts with ourselves, our learning and our understanding.
Over the last year, the Eden School has been participating in the Eco-Schools Program. Eco-Schools is the largest, global, sustainable school program that engages and educates the youth on ecological critical thinking and sustainable solutions to the worlds biggest problems. The program’s philosophy starts in the classroom and expands to the community. The foundation is rooted in action-based learning, a process which involves the students to actively participate in the systems that revolve around them; how they work, what role each student plays as part of the system as how they can change it.
Each school follows a seven step process which empowers their young people to lead and act wherever they can. Each school focuses on one topic or theme and explores the challenges that they face within that theme. Having thought about the different topics available, we decided to choose waste. We have embarked on a journey to discover our part in the system of consumption and identify aspects we do not know about.
The first steps of the process included creating a committee, meeting semi-regularly to collect information on our waste habits and to create action-based solutions to some problems that we find within the school.
We opened the conversation to the students and asked who wanted to be involved in the process. The committee meets once every two weeks. The first few weeks were to create an environmental review of the school and its waste habits. The ideas sprung from these discussions included calculated measurements of waste, observations of recycling methods, measurements of the number of bins provided etc. From these measurements, it was clear to the committee that an action plan was needed to improve the way we processed our waste.
The Eco-School committee then ran a school-wide intervention by employing different types of waste recycling, educating each class on the types of waste to put in each bin and making sure it is done correctly. The next step is monitoring and evaluating. Over the next month or so, we will collect all information and create a school-wide eco-code. Which we are still working on.
With the work of the committee progressing, how have other students become involved in the process?
With this mission in mind, we have engaged with various projects across the curriculum; we have started to become more conscious of our ecology, the study of our home, our waste systems and our planet. In science, we have tried to understand the environment and what fosters a healthy and balanced ecosystem, in maths we have calculated how many kilos of waste we produce in the school, in art we have collected recycled materials and experimented creatively with other ways we can use them.
‘I think it is a really good idea, where I live and all the rubbish. I find it a really good project as it informs me what I am doing at home and at school.’- Kelys
Our participation in the Eco-Schools program has not only made us more ecologically conscious and responsible for our actions, it has also provided us with a year-round project to focus on. We have been able to engage with waste in many different classes. It has fueled the students imagination and curiosity and created a common mission for the whole school, a community with the same values and the same goal.