Paradise, beautiful, breath-taking! These are some of the words synonymous with the Caribbean, a place many of us call home. However, disheartening photos of sparkling blue waters “choked to death” by Styrofoam and plastic waste; not only threatens the already fragile tourism industry but also impact marine life.
Image 1: Garbage found floating in the Caribbean Sea. Photograph: Lacy Cooke/Inhabitat.
Pollution caused by our anthropogenic actions is an increasingly growing problem and is a contributing factor to climate change and is a direct threat to our livelihood. Approximately, 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide and decay of the organic proportion of solid waste is contributing to about 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2017). Identifying the problem is just one step in the process. Decisive and strategic actions are needed in order for change to occur. For instance, the old adage one man’s waste is another man’s treasure is significant, as nothing is really useless, everything has its use. Therefore, by encouraging reuse, recycling and resource recovery in businesses and homes, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill.
Schools generate massive amounts of waste daily; therefore an excellent way to increase awareness of the importance of waste management is to engage students in proper disposal and separation of waste for recycling. A project was developed at the St.Vincent and the Grenadines community college (SVG CC) with the main goal of reducing the waste generated and utilizing efficient ways to reuse and recycle waste. The project involved the training of students in solid waste management where at the end of the training they will perform duties as Environmental Stewards in their various divisions. Blue recycle bins for plastic bottles and cans only were purchased while green bins were used for general waste. The bottles and cans once acquired are packaged and sent to the recycling facility. Projects of this nature should be fun but are important to the youth and the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development goals as they develop the knowledge skills to build the workforce necessary to protect and conserve the environment for future use. Projects of this nature can be replicated in homes and businesses, as many Caribbean countries do not yet practice separation of waste for disposal.
image 2: St.Vincent and the Grenadines Community College Waste Management Project
2. Composting- Easy to do, so why isn’t everyone doing it?
illustration 1: Composting Cycle
The benefits to be derived from compost are truly remarkable. It is basically organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Diverting plant and food waste into compost has a number of benefits for the environment. More importantly: Compost incorporated with backyard gardening is a win-win situation.
3. Backyard garden- Eat what you grow, grow what you eat.
image 3: Backyard Farm
Constructing backyard gardens are ideal ways to teach children, the family, and the general population the value of growing what they eat and eating what they grow and how this could improve their health.
School gardens are a wonderful way to use the schoolyard as a classroom, reconnect students with the natural world and the true source of their food, and teach them valuable gardening and agriculture concepts and skills that integrate with several subjects, such as math, science, art, health and physical education, and social studies, as well as several educational goals, including personal and social responsibility. The food grown can be used to sell to the local market or even to the school’s cafeteria or tuck shop in order to ensure sustainability.
Many persons are not aware of the various benefits to be derived when they reuse, reduce and recycle because they simply do not know. Environmental education acts as a catalyst for change as it provides the information on relevant yet critical concepts such as climate change, pollution, and many other issues that are ruining our very fragile environment. It has the power to change learned behaviors and present better known to the general population.
As the population becomes more aware of the consequences of their actions and the above mentioned environmental issues, it is hoped that relevant actions to protect and conserve the environment will take place. Notwithstanding that fact, there will be challenges involved, and a collaborative effort by stakeholders involved will be crucial to the adaptation of new thinking.
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Emily Joy serves as the Senior Client Success and Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for MicroMentor, a social innovation of the global humanitarian organization, Mercy Corps. Emily has extensive experience in community economic development projects in the US and Latin America, working with youth, social entrepreneurs, small business owners, and mentors to grow small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits.
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