RISE, which stands for resilience, innovation, service, and entertainment, is an event that "brings innovative thinkers and performers to the AISC to enrich the discourse and exposure around big ideas and global issues." This year, MUN Impact got the opportunity to speak at the event regarding environmental sustainability. We raised our concern about how the community members are not aware of how much single-use products, such as plastic bottles, were consumed and explained how these numbers can be reduced by changing simple habits.
After the RISE event, we attempted to further influence our school community. On a whiteboard, we asked students and teachers to write about habits and ideas they can implement to reduce the waste that we create. Furthermore, we held a booth where we sold handtowels and leftover water bottles from CHEMUN to reduce the number of plastic bottles and paper tissues used at school. Also, at the booth, we encouraged students to use bamboo or glass straws, mechanical pencils, and multi-use razor.
Serin's speech at the RISE event
17. The number of pressing issues that the world needs to solve before 2030. In 2016, the United Nations created a set of 17 global goals called the Sustainable Development Goals. Such goals cover a wide range of social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, and the environment. We are the first K-12 school in the world to achieve the gold status in LEED. It is evident that as a school we are responsible consumers of energy and water, yet we are still irresponsible producers of large amounts of waste. At times it feels that we may be indifferent towards the amount of waste we personally create each and every day.
During the past week, we collected data regarding the waste our school community produces. Astonishingly, in just one week, we consumed 2600 juice boxes, and 86000 paper tissues. This waste was created by our own personal choices. Yes, as a school we have made changes on campus, such as removing paper cups and installing hand dryers in bathrooms. However, these are initiatives made by the school administrative teams, not by us as individuals. So, I continue to ask myself, what personal choices can I make to reduce the waste that I create? Are there ways that we as a community can improve our impact on the environment? If we fail to understand the harm that our individual waste has on the environment, we won’t be able to make a real impact. Individual waste alone may not cause a lot of harm, but it builds up and the collective waste we produce has dangerous implications. What truly matters and what we really need to do, is to change our mindsets and simple habits.
Some changes that I challenge you to think about are your use of single use plastics and paper. Do you really need to buy that single use plastic bottle or could you bring your own bottle and fill it from the water dispensers. On campus, we have 422 students and 171 water dispensers. That’s 1 dispenser per 2 students. This water is completely safe to drink and the large jugs they come in are reusable. Furthermore, instead of using paper towels in the restrooms, could you use the hand dryer or bring your hand towel from home? It is common in some culture to carry a washcloth at all times. Could you start this trend in your own life? Do you bring your own reusable shopping bags to the store, or use your own bamboo straws for drinking? What do you do with extra paper? Do you reuse it or toss it out?
Being a responsible consumer isn’t always easy and I sometimes forget, but I challenge myself and you to begin thinking about changes you can implement to make a positive impact on our environment. On behalf of MUN Impact, I thank you for your time and hope that you accept this challenge.