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Actions in 2018

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Meet the #EWWRAwards finalists: a high school in Asturias seeks holistic solutions to waste

The EWWR Awards finalists have been announced! In each category, the Jury has selected their top 3 finalists. The winners will be revealed on 15 May in Brussels during the EWWR Awards Ceremony. In the days and weeks to come, we will introduce you the nominees one by one. Today, we would like you to present you the holistic way in which High School number 1 (IES school number 1) in Asturias, Spain sought to address unsustainable consumption and waste generation through an interview with teacher and project manager Sergio Fernandez Sierra. This action is a finalist in the Educational establishments category.

This high school in Asturias sought to tackle waste holistically
This high school in Asturias sought to tackle waste holistically

What did your action consist of?

Instead of an action, we organised a series of actions taking place during the entire EWWR 2018 week. Overall, approximately 500 students of our school participated in the activities, which are described below:

Monday, November 19. Give your wardrobe a makeover: introduction to the solidary economy. We set up two textile collection containers in our school given to us by the Emaus Social Foundation company, which focuses on social inclusion. Among other things, the company prepares used clothes for reuse and resale in second-hand shops.

The students in our high school attended a talk given by Iris Martín, the manager of Emaus in Asturias, who explained the magnitude of the environmental problems that result from textile manufacturing and the need to increase the percentage of reuse and recycling of textiles. At the end of her talk, students had the chance to ask questions and share their opinions

At the end of the week, we donated the clothes we had collected to Emaus and the two textile containers remain installed in our centre.

On Tuesday, November 20, we organised a viewing of the documentary Albatross by Chris Jordan and we had a roundtable about the impact of plastics on the environment. The representative of SEO Birdlife in Asturias took part in the roundtable, as did the coordinator of the Greenpeace volunteers in Asturias, a member of the Asturias Association for Environmental Sciences (ACASTUR) and myself, as a project coordinator. The roundtable was once again followed by a discussion with the students, who had the chance to ask questions.

On Wednesday, November 21, we organised a day devoted to the reuse and recycling of clothes. Students from the fashion and design track in our high school held a workshop for our freshmen and sophomores, during which they taught them how to give a new life to their clothes. The outcome of the workshop were brooches, cases, bow ties, bags, skirts and various dresses. On Friday, November 23, we exhibited the items in our school library for all the students to see the quality of the resulting objects.

On Friday, November 23, we organised a beach cleanup and educational outing at a nearby beach called Estaño in collaboration with ACASTUR. Divided into teams, the teachers, students and ACASTUR members analysed the fauna, flora and the tides. Taking samples of seawater and the effluents on the beach, they analysed, among others, parameters like the temperature, the pH, and the amount of nitrites and nitrates. The students at our school performed further tests on the samples taken and the data was communicated to ACASTUR for publication, as part of Coastwatch, a European environmental monitoring project. Other teams cleaned up the beach, separately collecting plastic, paper and cardboard, and glass.

How did you come up with the idea?

In general, our high school strives to engage students in activities that help them reflect on our lifestyles and consumption habits and their impact on the environment. Our intention is that the students analyse the status quo and identify solutions to change it for the better. Through this series of actions, we also wanted to take full advantage of our school’s resources and to introduce to our community other actors that participate in waste prevention and in mitigating its environmental impact.

We thought of tackling textiles in order to use the fact that there is a fashion and design track in our school. Since our students are at an age when they are growing, they use clothes for relatively short periods of time. Furthermore, they are pressured by the fashion industry to buy clothes constantly. That is why we wanted to introduce to them alternatives that exist in our city, such as Emaus, which operates a second-hand clothing shop. Besides, we wanted to show them that they can make truly creative and valuable things with the clothes that they no longer valued and to give them an opportunity to reuse some of the items that they no longer thought they needed.

As far as plastic is concerned, we live on the coast, therefore the plastic pollution of the sea is a problem that is literally close to us. Chris Jordan’s documentary is very visual and inspires viewers to empathise with the animals that suffer as a result of our consumption habits. But we did not want to leave the broaching of the topic at that, which is why we held the roundtable with organisations that operate in our community in order for students to understand that this problem affects us locally. Our participation in the Coastwatch project was meant as a step even further, as a demonstration of what can be done in practice to conserve the environment in our town.

As for the specific action that we organised addressing the theme of EWWR 2018—hazardous waste—we wanted to attract the attention of our students and staff to the damaging chemicals in everyday products and to let them question whether using these products is truly necessary. Using our school labs, we demonstrated the contents of cleaning products with various labels in order for students to understand that there are toxic substances outside of the lab as well.

Why is waste reduction important for IES school no. 1?

Schools cannot be allowed to be part of the waste problem; we must become part of the solution. In some classes taught in our school, such as biology and social sciences, students talk about the problems that stem from our poor resource management. At the same time, the management of our own resources at school is perhaps not always exemplary. If we teachers do not place the necessary emphasis on the importance of waste reduction, we will not have the moral authority necessary to educate the future generations and to set an example as far as environmental conservation is concerned.

Before becoming a schoolteacher, I myself studied to be a biologist and environmental educator. I thus had the opportunity to work with the Portuguese association Quercus ANCN and to see first-hand how birds were dying because plastic filled their stomachs and they were not able to feed themselves anymore. My experience in Castelo Branco prompted me to fight for waste reduction wherever I could.

How can people reach you if they have questions?

The project has a blog through which readers can contact the teachers at our school:
http://blog.educastur.es/iesn1haciaresiduocero/

We also have an Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/eln1haciaelresiduocero/

And the school can also be contacted at:
Website: https://alojaweb.educastur.es/web/iesn1/centro
Telephone: 985 38 31 00
Email: numero1 [AT} educastur.org