Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raising My Hand In Class

A couple days ago I interviewed Ingrid McEntire and she left me a comment which I received this morning that got me thinking about our opportunities and how we will pursue making changes in our environments. She said:

Hope that everybody, especially the Children, make now a better world through recycling....In school their should be a class "Creative Recyling". Green Leaf should contact the new President to inspire this.Great job Creations By Ingrid

Creative recycling classes. Genius!

Parents should be responsible to provide their children with the initial desire to make green choices, to open their eyes to the state of the planet and what we can do to help fix it but it is important to remember that children are far more easily influenced by what they watch their parents do they what they hear them say.

What are we teaching the youth of the nation about getting greener and where are they learning the lessons? I fully agree with Ingrid that this type of subject matter should be taught in schools (Attention all art teachers!) but if it is not, are positive lessons being taught at home instead? Do we follow through on our own statements -- practice what we preach?

With the advent of the Green Collar industry taking a major foothold, are we preparing our children with abilities that will ensure they can garner these positions or are we instead telling them that “green is good” while we throw away the plastic water bottle we just drank someone else’s tap water out of?

I make every effort to live as green a lifestyle as possible but I do admit, there are things about my living habits that are less eco-friendly than I would prefer them to be. Generally speaking, the reasons for this are financially motivated as our family is in a moderately precarious monetary position just like so many others across the world. It comes down to weighing what our own personal tradeoffs are:

Can we pay our bills, buy groceries, contribute to charity, cook a meal for family or friends - yes.

Is there a little extra left over so we can get on the somewhat higher cost wind power option from the electric company, buy locally grown and organic foods, send larger donations as we usually do every year at the holidays, share fabulous bottles of organic wine at dinner - not so much.

I do not have children so I am only responsible for myself, that is, in my own home. If I choose to drink out of a plastic water bottle while I open the refrigerator door for ten minutes then throw that bottle in the trash when it is gone there is no one to call me out on my actions; I am not spreading a message of disposable waste to an impressionable younger person so Ingrid’s comment really got me thinking about even the most basic message of recycling -- bins in schools.

There are a lot of questions here that I sadly have no answers for at this time but in an effort to open my own eyes to what our youth are learning about eco-friendly practice I am setting out on a mission. Over the course of the next few weeks my goal is to visit the principal of each school in my home town and ask just two questions:

Do you provide recycle bins for students to drop in all potentially recyclable items (paper, plastic, metal, etc.)?

If no, why not?

We are a smaller town so the tour should be quick and efficient (saving as many emissions as possible people!), something I can likely complete in one day. In my town there are seven grammar schools (K-5), one junior high school (6-8) and one high school (all public). I do not know what can of worms I will be opening by approaching this issue, perhaps I will find out that none of the schools have this available resource and begin a lobby in my town to ensure installation of such bins (as well as proper removal by the town DPW). Perhaps I will discover that all of the public schools here already participate in recycling and laugh that I am so behind the curve since these bins have been in place for years. Either way I am looking to educate myself as to how educated the students here are in the ways of green.

Anyone want to join me in your own hometown and report back on your findings? Do you have kids and want to share your own story? I would love to hear how some of today’s parents are encouraging green behaviors in their own homes and share those stories. In the meantime, wish me luck on my new adventure, I will let all of you know how it goes.


Karen said...

That is such a great thing to do. I'll be very interested in what you find out when you make your school visits!

High Desert Diva said...

It will be interesting to read what you discover. (Take your camera!)

I like the 'Creative Recycling' idea. And the idea of enforcing, if not teaching, recycling in schools.

Sadly, art teachers seems to be one of the first to get cut in budget crisis. Silverton, the town we moved from, hadn't had art teachers in years. Makes me sad.

artjewl said...

I agree that environmental responsibility needs to be taught at an early age. And while I agree that it should be something addressed in our schools, I think the flip-side you mentioned -- the parental responsibility -- is FAR greater.

For example, when my sister was in 3rd grade, they had an Environmental Education (or EE) Club that met during their clubs period, and that was great, but what REALLY made a difference was the 1 weekend a month that the EE club (or rather, the sponsoring teacher) organized a community recycling collection at the school. Yes, the school played a big role, but if not for parental involvement nothing would have happened.

Personally, my biggest lessons in "creative recycling" were products of Girl Scouts (parent-run) and my mom's Welcome Wagon days. They planted the seeds for me.

I think it's wonderful that you're checking in with the schools in your area to see that they're on the green track. But just as important is teaching our kids at home so that they can take it back to school.

And it's never too early to teach a child responsibility (green or otherwise): I am so proud that both of my boys have known to recycle by age 2, as has been evident by an occasional un-rinsed yogurt cup in the bin. Right now, though, we're working on not leaving the water running...