Papatūānuku - Earth Mother
Boulcott School’s Greenie group motivated and ready for action in response to their World of Waste experience
Zoe feels angry, Jade is sad and Logan is motivated to create change – all responses of Boulcott School students to their visit to the Silverstream Landfill as part of a World of Waste experience in 2020. The World of Waste Experience, run by Enviroschools on behalf of Hutt City Council, takes year 5-8 students on an out of classroom experience exploring the story of Waste in Te Awakairangi. The aim is to foster a generation of young people who think innovatively and creatively about reducing waste and take action back at school.
“Putting big piles of waste in the landfill won’t help the environment in any way,” says Zoe, a year 6 student at Boulcott School. “We need to do something [about this] now!”
Hannah, another year 6 student, was inspired by Earthlink – a local organisation that collects and creatively repurposes things people don’t need anymore. She loved how Earthlink compresses old plastic to use as “digstop” around pipes that might otherwise leak. “That’s a much better thing to do with used plastic than put it in the landfill,” she says.
Logan is motivated to be involved in the design process: “I want to push forward and to make packets that don’t have plastic in them.”
Taking action and finding it hard
As part of the World of Waste bus tour the Boulcott School students made pledges to change their behaviour at their annual “cushion concert”. They wanted people to acknowledge the effort they had put into the show by also making an effort and taking responsibility with their food packaging.
As a first step they introduced recycling bins at their “cushion concert” and their twilight gala. They provided a small box at the concert and some much larger bins at their Gala, but after the gala the recycle bins were overflowing with things that can’t be recycled. It was gross!
Clearly having the bins there was not enough to cause change.
“I reckon people just couldn’t be bothered.”
“There were kids at the gala from other schools, maybe they weren’t used to our system.”
Although the school has paper recycling well-established with class members emptying their bins once per week, at the gala lots of things that could have been recycled were contaminated with food. They needed a different system for an event like this.
Ideas for the future – communications
Initial ideas for the future included:
- really big bins with bright labels,
- placing lists of what can and can’t go in each bin over the flaps, and
- having the greenie group on patrol to help people out deciding what can go in and another group collecting any litter that gets missed.
The Greenie group have also published a call for Nood Food in the school newsletter.
Getting to the source of the problem
“But hang on a minute” says Zoe, “I don’t think it’s the signs that are the problem. I can’t think of one prize at the gala that wasn’t wrapped in plastic. It was ridiculous!”
“We could change what the prizes were and collect the wrapping to use for something else.”
“Or we could make the prizes ourselves and not have plastic wrapping at all.”
They recognised that there were some examples at the gala that were much more sustainable than others and didn’t create plastic waste:
- The liquorice was being sold in paper bags.
- One stall sold jars of small items from home that people don’t need anymore. The jars have already been used for other things and will be able to be used again and again.
The students could also think of other examples in the school where they were doing a good job with reusing things. The school has a culture of repurposing materials to develop their playground area. Examples are using old tyres and Jade’s dad has helped create an outdoor classroom space out of reclaimed wood and artificial turf.
One year at the school hangi, everyone brought their own cups and plates.
So the basics are there and the students want to take things to the next level.
Developing a Zero Waste Culture
Zoe says that everyone needs to be on board if they really want to make change.
She suggests that the school could have a recycling week in the same way that they have book week. The week could revolve around activities that involve recycling and culminate in a parade. “That would be fun for all ages,” she says.
Two senior classes participated in the Oceans Explorers 21 day challenge. Boulcott’s classes were among 1000s of classrooms working together to keep waste out of our waterways in the lead up to the America’s Cup. This is an ideal challenge for Boulcott School where the wind is bringing in litter from all sorts of places and the students are shocked by what they find. The classes collected litter daily and tallied on the board how much they gathered.
The Greenie group wants to include more information in the school newsletter and in posters for events indicating the importance of working towards zero waste. They will be asking the ICT leaders to make a movie and they are keen to talk to other Enviroschools about what they are doing.
Their teacher is motivated too and has delegated out other leadership groups in the school so that she can really dedicate some time to supporting the Greenie Group. Principal Stu and caretaker Dean have their ears open and the 2021 Greenie Group are committed to building on what the students from other years have started.
Banner image: Boulcott School’s 2021 Greenie group are full of ideas for the future.