How many of us stop and consider the amount of water, electricity and other energy sources that we misuse daily?
We are all familiar with the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle”.
“But, it’s not all about plastic,” explained sixth-former Rhys Greenland, Campion College’s Green Generation president.
“Recycling our clothes and making climate-conscious choices are just as important. By being more mindful of our daily actions we can help others, conserve energy, and, importantly, reduce the amount of items that wind up in our landfills. That’s why our Green Generation environmental club recently launched our school’s first Zero Waste Week.”
SPREADING AWARENESS OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY
For the last two terms, the club has been exploring the circular economy, which is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.
Zero Waste Weeks are school-driven, week-long campaigns based on spreading awareness of the circular economy and aimed at reducing waste on school campuses and by extension, within local communities.
Maria Greenland, fourth-form student and Green Generation vice president, also shared: “Our Zero Waste Week began with a courtyard quiz and ended with a scavenger hunt that included key facts to spread awareness and promote climate action. We shared information at assemblies and posted information linked to that day’s theme on our instagram account, @ccgreengen, promoting a different type of climate action. It went well and we plan to make it an annual event.”
The week included Meatless Monday (vegan recipes); Tee totes Tuesday, where the club upcycled gently used t-shirts into tote bags (no sewing required); Wind Down Wednesday, reminding the school community about the importance of powering down devices; Tree planting Thursday, supporting the national three million trees initiative; and Fast Fashion Friday, that kicked off a gently used clothing drive for Child Month in support of the CPFSA.
Rhys and Maria explained that the club’s resolve to highlight moving towards zero waste was strengthened a few weeks ago when members joined GraceKennedy Foundation’s Earth Day Beach Clean-Up in the Kingston Harbour. They bagged many different types of clothing items along with lots of plastic.
“This reinforced for us that if we change our attitudes to the ways in which we use everyday items, we could all do more for our planet,” Maria said.
“It’s not that hard,” Rhys went on.
“Let’s consider fast fashion. If, and when, feasible we can regularly donate clothes. Globally, fast fashion emits 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually (10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than air travel and shipping combined). It also produces 20 per cent of wastewater and 60 per cent of clothing comes from synthetics made of petrochemicals. Various studies indicate that even short extensions of the average life of clothing reduces its carbon, water and waste footprint by five to 10 per cent. This is the idea behind UNICYCLE, a school uniform recycling initiative Maria and I started with our friend, Jordan Nakash, five years ago (see @unicycleja on IG for more information).
To date, with the support of our school, the Ministry of Education and Youth’s National Education Trust (NET) and private sector partners like Fontana, Joseph’s, Ammar’s, LP Azar and Megamart we have redistributed over 1,000 uniforms and over 1,000 three-ply cloth masks made by HEART’s Project HOPE. Our goal is to expand UNICYCLE nationwide. We are getting ready to launch our fifth year and hope more schools will join us as collection centres.”
As Jamaica seeks to hit the target of 1.5 net carbon emissions, these climate-conscious students are encouraging the government and its partners to do move Jamaicans closer to zero waste.
REPLACE MEAT WITH BEANS AT LEAST ONE DAY A WEEK
For example, adding a focus on textile recycling, placing textile recycling containers alongside plastic ones and implementing a sorting process would be a step in the right direction. It might lead to more stringent manufacturing rules that require the use of biodegradable materials and less water and electricity.
Rhys noted: “These things are all taking place in countries across Europe, the US and Australia, but they have yet to catch on in the Caribbean. Jamaica could lead the way.
“Maybe more of us can also commit to replacing meat with beans at least one day a week (beans produce 90 per cent less emissions than meat),” Maria suggested.
“We can be more mindful about powering down/plugging out our devices and participate more in the national tree-planting effort.”
Schools interested in creating their own Zero Waste Weeks can visit Campion’s Green Generation IG page @ccgreengen.