As a boy, I was involved in several environmental projects. I counted the trees in our neighborhood (then sold seedlings to neighbors who didn’t have ‘enough’ to boost our numbers). I gathered my neighbor’s recycling (then delivered it to the recycler a few towns away). I wrote letters to public officials (then received a helpful packet about the environment from my senator, Al Gore.) I joined Global ReLeaf (then distributed their materials to neighbors).
In Abilene, though it was inconvenient, we recycled our plastics, paper, cardboard, and metals. And, though inconsistent, we also composted for Rachael’s garden. In reality, though, I’m more ‘environmentally aware’ than I am an environmentalist.
Around Swaziland we’re seeing a little talk of ways cities, businesses, and people are trying to go ‘green.’ Realizing we don’t have a good way to dispose of our trash on campus (we burn it like most people around us), we began seeking other options. (Giving credit where it is due, this has been done almost entirely by Rachael).
As a guest speaker in a class recently, Rachael asked students what was in their trash and options for disposing of it. Soon everyone realized that almost everything could be recycled, repurposed, composted, or fed to livestock. (See her post about class)
Could our little college campus in rural Swaziland eliminate waste? Certainly we can reduce it, but by how much? A quarter? Half? Three-quarters? Progress in this area not only helps the environment, but saves us resources used in disposing of waste.
Is this even possible (or feasible)? Here’s why I think it is:
- Though done inconsistently, there is already composting on campus. To manage this better would not only reduce waste, but help the gardens.
- Questionable is whether our current livestock (cattle, goats, chickens) would have any interest in scraps. Our current chicken system won’t allow for scraps.
- The paper, plastic, metal, and cardboard accounts for the vast majority of the remainder of the trash. Much to our surprise, it may be more convenient here than it was in Abilene. The local recycler in Matsapha is willing to provide us with large collection bins and regularly come to pick up all types of (mainly unsorted) recyclables … at no cost. Not to our surprise, he keeps failing to follow-through on the promise of bringing the bins “tomorrow”.
The hardest part — as with any change in behaviour — will be getting students and staff to follow through on actually recycling and composting their waste. (With the promise of these bins tomorrow, our house has piles of recyclables ready to go out and the girls make daily runs out to the compost).
The students in class today, though, appeared excied about the idea and even said, “I’m not just thinking about how to help make this happen here; I’m starting to try to figure out how to do this when I get home!”
The students shared some ideas about how to motivate others for a behaviour change. What ideas do you have?