My Plastic Free Future
12 Sep 2019
As the world population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate draining the planet’s limited resources the need to adopt sustainable practices becomes increasingly vital to our future. Envirotech Education on the Gold Coast is an organisation committed to leading from the forefront of globally innovative learning, guided by environmental sustainability with foundations in cutting edge technology.
One of Envirotech’s program initiatives is the Innovation Hub, where teams of students work together to create sustainable projects. The module covers a range of disciplines from digital media to marketing and is designed to provide solutions to real world problems.
Addressing Global Issues
Innovation Hub Manager and Trainer Tania Whatmore believes the facility provides a unique platform to apply the practical hands on side of vocational training which is seldomly seen in other business related diplomas. "It provides an opportunity for students to think outside the box and work together to locally provide sustainable solutions addressing global issues.”
Dutch student Anne Sogtoen has just completed her Leadership and Management Diploma at Envirotech and with it her Innovation Hub project, My Plastic Free Future. Anne says the concept came from an observation by one of the other members of her project team.
“One of the girls in the group raised the issue of plastics used by children after seeing a little girl in a restaurant refuse the offer of a straw from a waiter because it was made of plastic. The little girl said to the waiter ‘I don’t want to use plastic because I want to save the turtles.’
“The waiter was a little embarrassed but also had that self-realisation moment of ‘oh, what am I doing?’ It was a very powerful situation where a child was making an adult aware and that’s why we wanted to create our project from a child’s perspective.”
My Plastic Free Future is designed for children aged 10 – 12 years and includes a daily journal which helps them to identify alternative sources for unsustainable products. The journal includes games and fun activities for the kids and the project team also made a video to explain how the program works.
Anne says they specifically targeted this age group because the future belongs to them. They’re also old enough to understand the concepts while still being young enough to influence their parents.
“You have a different relationship with your parents when you’re 16, but when you’re 10 years old and you approach them and say something like ‘you should know this by now’ it really has a strong impact. When young kids tell their parents not to go to the supermarket and buy products in plastic packaging they listen and it really motivates them to take action.”
The project team placed a lot of emphasis on ensuring they created a program from a young person’s perspective. “We tried to place ourselves in their lives,” says Anne. “For instance, I don’t have a lunch box, but they do. I don’t have to bring a bottle of water to work, but they do. We made a list of all of the plastic items they might use and then gave them alternatives, like bamboo forks instead of plastic, pencils instead of plastic pens and so on.
“Then we looked at their home life. Do you use plastic bags, do you use plastic cups for instance? By looking at it from their perspective it became relatable for them. The journal is simple, it’s only 5 pages and written in a basic language that they can understand. Some of the responses in those journals have been absolutely adorable. Things like: ‘I told my Mum not to use disposable cups when she buys her coffee and now she has a reusable cup.’ We’ve had other stories about parents no longer using plastic water bottles after getting the message from their children and also adopting sustainable practices like reusable bags.”
The project team has been introducing the program throughout schools across the Gold Coast and according to Anne the response from their presentations has been overwhelming, with schools now wanting to implement the program as an ongoing part of their curriculum.
“Beyond the students I’ve been thinking about other initiatives like a more detailed booklet for parents and teachers. In addressing adults we don’t want to sound like we’re telling them what to do, just give them the idea. Instead of saying for instance ‘don’t use that plastic straw’ you can pose the question ‘should you use a plastic straw?’ to make them aware of the thought. Then a little seed is planted and hopefully that will grow.”