I chair the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) at my school (ISPP). The committee consists of 10 students and 5 teachers. Our job is to promote sustainable practices and encourage students (and members of the community) to take action. Our school has recently revamped their strategic plan to include the environment as one of the three main themes and so we have a lot of support as we try to turn ideas into action. We’re stoked.
As one of our actions this year, we decided to target the largest event our school hosts, International Day. Over 1000 people attend this event and it is a celebration of our school’s cultural diversity. Naturally, the event also includes a lot of food which generates a lot of waste. The event organizers were very keen for our committee’s recommendations on how to green the event. We developed the rubric below and offered a cash incentive if food vendors could follow the guidelines set out.
I was very encouraged by the positive response from the vendors and they all stepped up to the plate on the day. Most of them transported their food in reusable containers with virtually no plastic waste. They also made a massive effort to ensure that their food could be eaten without plastic utensils. For the most part, they all used paper plates/packaging. I was extremely impressed by Tamarind restaurant who wrapped their food in banana leaves and committed to washing their own reusable plates and cutlery throughout the day.
My students also handed out banana leaves that they had carefully cut and cleaned to all the country booths and many of the visitors. The leaves really impressed people as a 100% natural alternative to the napkin or paper plate. Overall, I believe our small actions, and the support of the event organizers, helped reduce a great deal of non-biodegradable waste from entering the landfill (or dump).
Moving forward, this is what our committee would like to accomplish next year:
- Provide the restaurants with concrete examples of plastic alternatives. Small plastic cups for sauces were common but could easily be replaced with paper baking cups.
- Provide restaurants with washed banana leaves if they would like them.
- Provide an incentive (prize) for country booths to follow our environmental guidelines
- Create guidelines for sponsors – especially banning balloons.
- Provide more stations for water bottle refill. There was only one and it was not visible. As a result, many plastic water bottles were sold. I’d love to see the plastic water bottle eliminated altogether from the event but that might present a problem with one of our sponsors.
- Waste separation. Provide bins for collection of recyclables and organic waste.
- Encourage visitors to bring reusable bottles/containers/utensils. Perhaps we could provide discounts on tickets if they do so.