I’ve been thinking a lot about how doing the most earth-friendly, healthy thing is often a bit more “inconvenient” than just maintaining status quo. Like remembering to bring your bags to the store, making a dinner from scratch rather than processed or take out, dealing with recycling and composting… things like that.
When you think about what our grandparents (or parents depending on your age) had to do during the depression or war times, it is just laughable. We throw away items all the time that they would have been saved or mended. Even foil would have been washed and saved and reused. It’s time to get back to that mentality. People could get behind it in the past because they felt their efforts were helping with the war, or they had to do it out of no other option. We have the luxury right now, or choosing to do what is best and of making that inconvenient choice. And the more times you make that choice, it becomes less inconvenient.
I’ve been watching the Middle School kids during lunch a couple of weeks ago as we rolled out the composting and real silverware instead of disposable plastic. It’s added a little extra work for them to not just dump everything into the garbage, but instead take a few seconds to drop their silverware off, dump just the food waste into one bin, recycle any cans, and finally throw all garbage into the last one. It’s annoying. I can see it in their faces as they have to think about where to put everything. There is also a place to leave any unopened food items and fruit. I’m not even sure this will work without an adult monitoring it every day. I’ll post more about this soon.
We have to do the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Not because someone makes us or watches us.
We are actually at war. It’s an inconvenient war that doesn’t want to be acknowledged. We are going to run out of resources for our population and our planet at our current rate of consumption.
I’ve had some discouraging times during the last few years where it felt like my efforts towards encouraging veganism and sustainability efforts have made very little impact. I stopped drawing for awhile, and writing. When things matter so much to you, but you see your dog’s instagram get more notice, it can be demoralizing!
I did have something extremely positive happen that I’ll share. When my youngest son started middle school, I was able to work from home and had some ideas of creating an Eco club at his school. I imagined having an after school group with amazing kids wanting to make a difference in their school and families. I talked to the Principal, Sun coordinator, art teacher and science teacher. I created a t-shirt design and monthly project plan. Then I tried to find someone to do the project with me. And I tried to find kids who would be interested. Not even my own son and his friends wanted to do it.
The next year I talked to the interim Principal, it wasn’t a big priority to her understandably. I wasn’t clear on my vision or next steps. And then this last year, I tried once again (a little sheepishly) with the new Principal and the Green team Science teacher. This time though, I had a plan. It wasn’t as exciting or fun as I initially imagined with kids being involved. But, it had solid actionable ideas and a plan. And this time, progress was made.
A lot of this was due to connecting with Eco School Network. A local organization founded by the Center for Earth Leadership to create change leaders in the community by providing them a community of parents, tools, resources and training. Jeanne Roy and her team led the course which took place over 4 evenings, with about 18 parents. Every meeting was very organized and gave us an opportunity to learn and ask questions. We had a mentor to check in with, and a partner as well.
The other parents inspired me, while at the same time I realized some of the reasons that I wasn’t succeeding. I was the only parent attending from a Middle School. Elementary school parents tend to be more involved in volunteering. Middle School parents are less likely to even enter the school and many have gone back to work full-time, or burned out on volunteering by that point. Also Middle School is only 3 years here, so there is less time. At my son’s Elementary school he was there 7 years (one year was preK) and I walked him into that building and hung our often after school on the playground.
We chose goals as part of the training, and I picked the simplest one: renewing the Oregon Green School certification that had lapsed 3 years ago. As part of the application, we would stop using single-use plastic silverware. A secondary goal was composting, although that sounded more complicated.
It sounds small, but when I thought about how all that plastic was being thrown away every single day for the last 2.5 years while I dithered about what to do, it seemed critical not to lose another moment. Composting was needed as during one single lunch observation, I saw kids throwing away multiple pieces of whole, unpeeled fruit into the garbage.
We now have collected over 800 forks and spoons (most of those actually donated from the Eco Network), ordered compost bags and bins, conducted a waste audit, and have the 8th grade science team creating training materials for all the students to follow.
I realized all it really takes is one person to start a ripple effect. There are others who can help you and make this happen such as:
Our amazing green team science teacher who had accomplished the initial Oregon Green School certification
Supportive Principal, cafeteria and custodial staff.
PPS’ Americorps volunteer
Parents and kids who donated silverware and made posters
The amazing local Eco School Network who answered every question and even supplied silverware when we came up short.
My biggest concern now is finding parents to take over the green school efforts, and hopefully do even bigger and better ideas. I want to take this experience and keep doing what I can, no matter how small it seems, to create a better world for the kids and the animals. As one of my favorite inspirational people, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.”