Friday, September 13, 2013

Trash Talk at Prep Senior

I had a delightful meeting with Kim McNaughton (Prep Senior teacher) this week on the issue of moving forward with several initiatives at Melawati. Among the things that we discussed was trash. No. Our students are not misbehaving and being rude. Quite the contrary. Both students and teachers are asking about how to be part of the solution to an age old problem: trash. 

For a couple years now the Prep Senior class has had trash-free Fridays whereby the students come to school prepared to have no trash at all. It's quite the exercise in problem solving as parents busily work a bit on their baking and food preparation at home, and utilise re-usable packaging to ensure that food stays fresh and the packaging is reused. It's quite a wonderful little tradition and everyone in that microcosm of the world seems to really appreciate what it teaches the children (and adults) as well the clean and direct answer to a major global issue. 

Which begs the question... could ISKL do this on a larger scale? Could different grades do the same thing, particularly at Melawati where food preparation in more home based?  One of my own goals for this year has been to reduce the waste going to landfill at ISKL. Between our composting from home program (which involves over 80 families, 4 classes and two vendors), our bio-digester and our ongoing recycling efforts at Ampang and Melawati (where a new recycling club has been launched this week) we are hopeful that reduction will come as a natural consequence. 

But the true solution lies in reducing, not in reusing or recycling. It is in reducing what we purchase makes a dent on the global demand and, though that, the pressure on resources. It's in reducing produce with extra packaging. It's in making more from scratch so our children can eat a healthy meal while minimizing the waste at home, at school, wherever. 

This is one of those things that we hope to keep moving toward. Less waste equals less pollution. Less pollution is something we all want. At Prep Senior the kids are learning that in person. What great lessons to be teaching 5 year olds! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Saying No to "stuff"

If you are an athlete, a parent of an athlete or have a child who is going on GAP this year you may have received the word about t-shirts. Or rather word of the lack thereof. ISKL loves its t-shirts. International Fest has one. Student Council has one. Peer helpers have theirs. They certainly serve their purpose. But it's not inconceivable to have students on several teams, clubs and organisations to purchase one for each, ensuring a wardrobe healthy with (non-organic, imported) cotton. Add to that the travel shirts and the uniforms and ISKL families are probably buying a whole lot of clothing, no?  

The HS Activities & Athletics programs have, for some years, shown their support of carbon offset programs for their flights (as seen in past articles). Now they are taking on the world of excessive t-shirts head on. Trying to minimize the pressures of excess t-shirt purchasing and use, they are asking students to buy one shirt - just one - for all teams and trips. In an email sent our on Wednesday, Rob Hutterd (Assistant HS AD) shared a video on the topic. I opened it, secretly delighted by the message. It noted in that video (which can be found at that making one t-shirt uses 2,700 liters of water. I don't know if that's accurate, but given that it's a National Geographic video I'm willing to at least accept that it might be in the ballpark. Then I got my elementary math mind to work and did some quick calculations. 

450 GAP participants. About 600 student athletes. Total: 1,050. Multiply that by 2,700 liters and you have a whopping 2,835,000 liters of water saved!  From one decision!  My sincere hope is that the water saved makes its way into the small towns and villages of Malaysia where potable water might not be as simple as turning on a faucet in Ampang or Mont Kiara. 

I am hoping that this initiative - though contentious for some - might allow us a glimpse into our own consumer choices. Maybe one day, walking in a mall, our children might say "wow, that's an awesome shirt", closely followed by "but it's not worth the environmental cost, and I already have one".  

Keep Celebrating green by learning to say "no" when it makes sense to do so.