Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Could you put your school dustbins on a diet next term?

It is fitting that my last talk for this academic year was at the school where 'it all started'.

Yesterday I was invited to be guest speaker at an evening to celebrate success at Henry Box School in Oxfordshire.  Last summer I worked with a group of Henry Box students to create this lovely Henry Box version of my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, which you can read below.

But that's not when 'it all started'.  Rewind a few years...

I’ve been a Henry Box parent since 2005. We’re a social household and so I’ve seen many, many Henry Box students over the years coming to my house. And many Henry Box students have asked me this question:

“Anna, where’s the rubbish bin?”

 But we don’t really have one.

" So I have to ask the question: “What have you got?”

Having to ask this question, made me realise that we see things a bit differently in the Pitt household. When we no longer need or want something, we don’t see rubbish, we see a resource to re-purpose or to pass on to someone else, whether that’s by giving it away to friends or family, taking it to a charity shop or recycling or composting it. We almost always find a use for what we no longer want to use and as a result our landfill bin, spends most of the time neglected and lonely and gets put out once a year with nothing much in it.

Regular visitors to my house have got used to this over time, but after one particular gathering when those same questions arose, I asked my daughter, Jen, whether people recycled at school. She said there are recycling bins, but people don’t often seem to use them. They just think RUBBISH and so they throw it away. Lots of recyclable stuff just gets put into landfill bins.

And that’s what got me thinking about how I could try to encourage more young people to think RESOURCE rather than RUBBISH? How do I encourage young people to WASTE LESS? I feel that Henry Box students set me that challenge and my book and the Henry Box book is part of my finding a solution to that challenge.

Since writing my book, I've spoken to well over 1000 wonderful young people at various schools, challenging them to waste less and think RESOURCE rather than RUBBISH.  And I've put this challenge to various groups of adults too.   I hope I've inspired a few people to WASTE LESS and THINK MORE.  Will a few more toothpaste tubes and cereal boxes get recycled?  Maybe a few more people will check the packaging and choose the pizza that has a compostable or widely recyclable cardboard base rather than the rarely recycled polystyrene type?  Judging from the conversations I had yesterday evening following my talk, a few people learnt something or will see things a bit differently as a result.

Sometimes, though, the best part of speaking to groups of people about something you are knowledgeable and passionate about is the learning and inspiration you gain in return.  When I look back on this academic year I realise how much I've learnt from giving talks and running workshops.

Here are some highlights below.

Charlotte's tip for The Marlborough School version of 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free made me realise that I'd completely lost the cycling habit.  I used to always walk to the village, but I would drive to my nearest town even though it is only five miles away.  I've now dusted off my bike and got back in the saddle and I'm making most journeys to town by bike. The lovely bunch of flowers I was presented with last night got a few comments on the way home as I cycled back from the Awards Evening with the flowers tucked into a pocket of my rucksack.

Charlotte's Tip
Alex (Year 5) asked me a question that really got me thinking: "Why do we have to save water when it rains all the time?"  What a great question!  I won't go into the answers right now, but I've written a whole new workshop with that as my title.

Sam's comment (Year 4) and the accompanying expression on his face when we discussed the fact that a hamburger has a water footprint of 2500 litres is one that will always stay with me.  He said "I'm blown away, Miss.  You've shocked me."   I'm still learning from that one!

Talks and workshops will resume from Wednesday 1st October 2014.  Dustbin Diet workshops should be booked by 15th October for schools who would like to create a book in time for Christmas (as workshops need to be completed by end November).

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