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Monday, 3 October 2011

The Challenge Begins

Last week, through the Zero Waste Program, I had some AWESOME trash talk with three enthusiastic classes in the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD). Ms. Carson’s grade 3/4 at Mamquam Elementary in Squamish, Ms. Hardy's grade 5 French class at Spring Creek in Whistler, and Mr. Lane's grade 4 class at Cayoosh Elementary in Lillooet all participated in the Zero Waste Workshop. 
Lunch waste from Mamquam Elementary

The Zero Waste Workshop explores with students where their waste goes, and examines what it means to reduce, re-use, recycle, and re-think waste. Ms. Carson's class has been talking about garbage free lunches for some time, and I was thrilled see such a small pile of waste produced in their lunch (Right). Any lunch waste that these students bring is usually taken back home at the end of the day. Students were proud of their small waste pile, but surprised to learn that on average every person in the SLRD produces close to 1 tonne of recyclable and landfill waste each year. Check out this picture of a one-tonne-a-saurs (below), and imagine a herd of over 54,000 one-tonne-a-saurs - this is how much waste is produce each year in the SLRD. Students agreed that their commitment to waste free lunches needs to also be applied in their schools, homes, and communities.
what 1 tonne of waste looks like

Some really interesting conversations came up when students were asked the question "why do we have so much stuff?" A student in Mr. Lane's class said  "because you buy one thing, then something similar but better comes out, and then you have to buy this." Students in Ms. Hardy's class shared similar thoughts giving the example of video game systems that wont play new games, and that feeling of "I just have to have it" drives them to buy more stuff. Students were interested to learn that people who make stuff use this "I just have to have it" feeling to sell more stuff. The term for this marketing strategy is planned obsolescence.  The next time they feel that "I just have to have it" feeling, students were encouraged to think about the waste involved in the production, and packaging of stuff, the landfill space that their old stuff will take up, and ask themselves "do I really need it?"

After the Zero Waste Workshop the classes audited their lunch waste and here are the results
It is interesting that there are no paper or plastic lunch bags, I remember when I was in grade four it was customary to bring a new paper lunch bag every day. It is also interesting to note that the number of organics (orange peels, banana peels, apple cores) in Mr. Lane, and Ms. Hardy's class was the biggest number. Think how how much waste could be reduced by composting fruit sticker free organics. Next week all three classes will re-audit their waste on Garbage Free Lunch Day. If they reduce their total pieces of garbage they will be entered to win 1 of 10 classroom worm composters. 

So far 86 students across the region have committed to:
  • getting their snacks from the bulk bins to avoid single use packaging
  • remembering their re-usable drink containers to avoid juice boxes and straws
  • taking their stickers off of their organics before composting
  • and reducing their waste at school, home, and in their communities
I can't wait to hear from Mr. Lane's, Ms. Carson's, and Ms. Hardy's class how their Garbage Free Lunch Day goes! This week the Zero Waste program will visit Ms. Allen's grade 4 class at Spring Creek in Whistler. Ms. Allen's class sorts the recycling for Spring Creek so they should have some good ideas on how their school can reduce their waste.

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