I remember as a parent 11 years ago when my youngest son started school being a bit perplexed when the school decided to remove rubbish bins at lunch time. They asked children to take their waste home under the guise of ‘taking care of the environment’ and I wondered then how moving the waste from one location to another was ever helping our earth. In hindsight it was the start of the schools journey on reducing their waste footprint. As a parent it was slightly inconvenient when yogurt pots came home half full and spread throughout the lunch box and bag. I wondered if the teachers were doing their part and going waste free at lunch time and in their private lives as I cleaned a soggy mess out of the bottom of a school bag.

Fast forwarding 11 years and as a teaching team we have also started our Enviroschools journey and are supporting our children to reduce their waste footprint.
With worm farms, compost bins, recycling centre and hopefully soon chickens, the roles are reversed and as a teacher I am supporting children to reduce their waste and empowering them to share their knowledge.
And in my mind the question still stands – if we are asking our children and families to think about the damage that humans are causing to the earth then what am I doing to support this outside of kindergarten hours?
So it started in our house with our supermarket shopping and the removal of those plastic bags. Organic and free range items are purchased whenever possible. Our vegetable garden is small but established and extra fruit and vegetables are purchased locally. We have a small outdoor space but we have a feijoa, two mandarin and one lemon tree plus raspberry and blueberry bushes. Going a little old school and preserving, freezing, making jams, home baking and trying not to buy takeaways and cook each night help reduce our carbon footprint, reduce waste and save money.

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The one thing however that has been a stumbling block is reducing our use of single use plastic. Have a good look next time you do your supermarket shop and you will be amazed at how many of our items are contained in plastic that we discard after using the product. And while recycling reduces the plastic clogging our landfill and oceans it doesn’t make it disappear.

Plastic was invented in 1907 and since then every piece of plastic ever made is still on our earth. The numbers are mind boggling.

So it was time to take a stand. The plastic cling film is gone, beeswax wraps are now a common feature in our house although convincing a 15 year old that they are cool enough to take to school took some work. Soft plastic makes it way to the supermarket recycling bin and we are thinking a bit about the containers our food items are in because ‘when you buy a product you also buy the waste’. Our rubbish waste has reduced from two bags a week(for four adults and one teenager) to one bag, with the new challenge set to aim for one bag a fortnight.
Are we as a family at a place to go plastic free – probably not yet but Enviroschools has shown me one thing as a teacher and parent, that taking care of our earth and our only home is a journey and one we all need to take. Sometimes starting can be the hardest part but it’s all those small changes that we make that add up to a better future for our children.

As the Lorax once said, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

So what is your families one thing, your place to start?

If you are interested in encouraging our law makers to make this change then you might like to sign a petition banning the use of plastic bags at;

https://act.greenpeace.org/page/11481/petition/1#firstPage/1

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Kaiako Sarah G