Friday the 11th of February 2011 was a big day for me but the environment is the big winner. This was the official ceremony to announce that St Mary’s Star of the Sea College was banning the single use plastic bottle.
Almost 12 months ago I wrote a proposal to our school principal Mr Pitt to have the single use plastic water bottle banned from our school.
For those who know me within environmental circles and those who read my blogs know I have been learning a lot about plastics and the effects they have on our oceans for almost two years, but what a lot of these people don’t know is how much I love the ocean and I spend most of my free time surfing.
My love for the ocean and my passion for the environment gave me motivation to take action. I also work on the philosophy of sharing what I have learnt with other young people in the hope of bringing long term behaviour change for the sake of our planet and our future. I hope that once other people, young people understand what is happening to our environment they will start to care and once people start to care they act.
My proposal contained three ways of tackling the problem of plastics in our environment at school and that these three things would mean my school would be part of the environmental solution and not the problem. I requested we do these three things:
1. Install water bottle filling stations
2. Revamp the school bubblers
3. Provide each student and teacher with a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle
After careful consideration Mr Pitt accepted the contents of my proposal and over the months ahead teachers, staff and students went to work. It really does take a team of motivated individuals to achieve goals like this project.
The day of the official ceremony was many things; fun, nerve racking and exhausting. There were speeches, a film and beautiful dancing.
The most important thing for me was, did I communicate my message well enough and what students and teachers thought of the “stations” and their new bottles. The bottles, some may think are not the coolest thing but I explained to them what the bottles symbolise. This is what I said:
You belong to a school that cares about you, your future, our oceans and the future of our planet.
It symbolises that our school is leading the way through positive actions by being part of the solution and not the problem.
It symbolises that our school is reducing our ecological footprint and reducing waste and that means we will have less impact on our environment.
The bottles symbolises that our school which sits across the road from the ocean, where we students have grown up along the shores and are custodians of the ocean care about the precious marine life such as whales, dolphins, turtles, fish and stingrays.
The bottles and this project demonstrate an important step towards sustainability. Sustainability is crucial for the survival of all plant and animal species, including us humans.
Mr Pitt added the most valuable statement during the ceremony about the new bottles saying “They do the job just fine”.
This project was not about individuals it’s about people working together, sharing knowledge, respecting people’s point of view, educating the community, to ensure the sustainability of the planet. People working together to come up with solutions and take action is what our planets needs and we don’t have to wait for politicians to make every decision for us. We have the power to make a future that we want. I have learned valuable lessons during the project, things like knowing when to push a point, identifying people’s motivation, keeping my eye on the goal and not getting bogged down with the less important things and appreciating every little win.
I would like to say a special thank you to our school principle Mr Frank Pitt for listening to my concerns, giving me a voice and for his continued support. For a project like this to be successful it needed leadership and without his leadership we might not have had the great result. Thank you for letting me do my thing – educating my peers about the environment.
I have mentioned before that intergenerational communication is very important to me as I believe my generation has a lot to learn and we need people like Mr Pitt to support young people in different ways but through communication to enable us to grow into confident adults and reaching our full potential. The statement that we are tomorrow’s leaders actually means we young people don’t have a voice today but when it comes to the environment we young people need to be heard because the quality of our future depends on the actions of today’s adults. I don’t think my age is a barrier to my learning and I don’t think my age should mean I have to wait in line to speak up about what is important to me.
I hope our school inspires other schools, businesses and communities to follow our lead.
I would like to say thank you to everyone at my school who contributed to this project because I am inspired by anyone who helps the environment!
More great projects happening this year and I will keep you up to date.