By Keli Sheng – Year 12
We’ve all seen pictures of seagulls and turtles choked up, dead, on the seaside entangled in plastic bags and straws, felt guilty for a few minutes then continued about our daily lives. The issue isn’t plastics; the issue is our ignorance, our lack of knowledge – we aren’t aware of the products of our unsustainable consumption. The choice to make a difference is ours, and we are given this choice every time we go shopping, every time we get take-out, every time we buy coffee yet most of us never simply say “no” as it doesn’t occur to us in those moments that we’re contributing to the 500 billion coffee cups being sent to landfill, the 78 million tons of plastic packaging choking our oceans. If we want to maintain a healthy, habitable planet for our children and grandchildren, if we want them to be able to play on clean beaches, to see wild dolphins and whales, we are the ones that need to start saying “no” to single use plastic products – and we need to start saying “no” now.
My name is Keli Sheng, I am in Year 12, and I am an ambassador for Drop it youth; a global campaign on raising awareness about single-use plastic. The movement, as you may or may not have read about in my article on The Update is all about pushing our world’s youth to drive the change needed in our world for a more sustainable and healthy future for our planet. Talking about this issue and amplifying the message on the detrimental effects of single-use plastic in our various communities is our central goal. Our school in particular has so much potential for change; as international citizens, we should be pushing for a brighter, better world – the basis for change is already there, we just need to build on it.
The ‘New Normal,’ a phasing out of single-use plastic is our latest victory. In the secondary school cafeteria, all single-use plastic has been eliminated with snacks and drinks being sold in PLA packaging – a type of plastic that is biodegradable. Recent school events, such as the Fashion Show, the Year 10 Odysseus play and the Greenleaf festival have been managed as sustainably as possible using donated, reusable festival cups for drinks instead of single-use plastic cups. Upcoming events such as the Kermesse will, again, be an opportunity to raise awareness on single-use plastic consumption as the green committee will have a stand for people to come and ask questions and explain the ‘New Normal.’ Reusable cups and drinking water dispensers will also be in place at the Kermesse as to try and eliminate the presence of plastic drinking bottles and plastic cups. Our campus is in the process of change – our journey towards a plastic-free campus is en route.
Green Week was a major success in building momentum in the Secondary, as well as the Primary School. Distinguished speakers such as Chris Hines and Gab Murphy inspired us to live more sustainably whilst the Green Leaf festival was filled music, sunshine and most importantly, zero single use plastic. To mark the end of the week (and Earth day), the Spring Festival at the Primary school boasted costumes made of recycled plastic, recycled crafts and decorations and even recycling themed cookies! Even more exciting; we generated less than one bag of waste in total.
Drop it Youth was also there, well-equipped with infographics, posters, sign-ups for pledges and a water-tasting activity. We had people come and taste water from two sources (tap and bottled) in order to try and distinguish the two from each other. We found that 19% enjoyed both equally whilst 36% preferred tap water and 45% preferred bottled water. These statistics indicated that the difference between tap and bottled water isn’t that significant; whilst assisting in the water tasting, it was also clear that most were hesitating to choose – so why not drink tap water instead? We are so privileged to live in this area where tap water is completely safe to drink – we should be taking advantage of it! Moreover, with so many people tending towards bottled water, there is still a substantial amount of awareness to be raised; BPA chemicals from plastic bottle caps and containers is found in nearly 90% of teenagers (University of Exeter, 2018)! Our journey will be a long one, but with activities as such, we are progressing.
The conclusion is that as a campus, we have successfully set sail on the ‘New Normal’ but we need to encourage all our students, parents, teachers, to carry on this push for change. Although we have been taking measures, we need to ensure that our community is aware of what is happening at the global scale and the importance of why we are making such efforts. If this issue isn’t solved, it will be passed on, generation after generation and then, we will regret not having done something sooner. It is through events such as the Spring Festival and Green week that we are capable of engaging our community in actively making a difference. All we need to do now is keep this issue in mind and bring it forward to our consciences whenever we are given the choice to say no in our individual lives. Join the journey and become part of the change, say no now, and your grandchildren will thank you for it one day.