Going green

I love being a mom. It has it’s obvious joys and some unexpected fun parts as well. Getting involved at the kid’s schools is one of them for me. Back in Newport Coast, California in 2010 when my oldest child entered Kindergarten I entered the uncharted waters of being a PTA mom. From classroom activities to seasonal festivities to field trip: I’ve been there – done that! I’ve enjoyed every single minute of getting to know my kid’s school community including teachers, parents and students. It’s been a huge learning experience for me. Though the fun always was greater than the work. Education has been my top priority. My greatest passion though has always been the environment. Back at NCE I’ve joined the Green Team. Looking back now, the two ladies who ran the NCE Green Team are some of the nicest and kindest women I’ve ever met. Here in Germany, I had the unexpected opportunity to co-found an environmental group as well.

In the summer of 2016 we had the opportunity to raise money with a fun run that takes places every two years at my son’s middle/high school.  They call it: Sponsorenlauf. My co-founder, a biology & sports teacher and I decided that we wanted to dedicated the proceeds of this run to establishing an environmental group at school who would not only do the obvious energy saving, environmentally conscious steps at the school itself but reach out to the community as well. We also wanted the social responsibility that’s closely tied in with the environmental one to be obvious in our group.

In order to have a great impact and make the most difference we also recruited students from the local college who major in sustainability. To complete our group of advisors we consulted with a botanical expert and put together a contest. We asked our students to submit their ideas on what they thought the environment needed most. We asked them how they would make a difference. We were astonished not only by the huge participation but also the quality of ideas from a broad spectrum of 5th to 12th grade students.

The judging process was very fun! In the end, we had four winners not just one! My daughter put together this clip for me to showcase the four ideas: (Here’s a short clip summarizing our green team.)

  • One of the winning ideas submitted by 5th graders was called a: Tauschschrank! The students said that they would like to put up a (second hand) cabinet at school where students could place items they no longer needed and other could take something out that they could indeed use. So the Exchange-Cabinet was born!

  • The other winning idea was by students from the upper grades who wanted to help limit the endless use of one-way plastic water bottles. They thought printing stainless steel bottles with a cool school logo would not only create school spirit but also help reduce the amount of plastic bottles thrown away each day. A water dispenser is already available at the cafeteria. Why not fill your own cool bottle with fresh filtered tap water!

  • Another interesting idea submission was called: No Nutella and was submitted by 8th grade girls. The title alone caught our attention but the cause was of course a worthy one with all the industrial palm oil production in the world and it’s huge negative impact on the environment!

They even served samples of their home-made (no palm oil) chocolate spread! Yummy! Thank you students for bringing this issue to our awareness! Great job!

  • Finally, a group of fifth graders had the concern that too many precious metals found in our modern smart phones were not recycled properly. They put up collection boxes at school and asked students to drop of their unused phones and other e-waste which then was sent to the environmental organisation NABU. They called their idea: Handysammelaktion!

 

All of our group’s efforts in the last year haven’t gone unrecognized. We have had the pleasure of being awarded a certificated by the IQSH, the quality management organisation in our state.  We achieved the level II certificate for being a what they call Zukunftsschule. It came with a special price money of 800€. But the honor of being a school of the future is really humbling.

 

As if that wasn’t enough motivation for us founders, we ended up getting a check for over 1K Euros by the city because our efforts helped reduce our carbon footprint. All of the money goes to funding more projects and giving more students the opportunity to not only learn about ways to make a difference but also help them make a difference with their own ideas.

With all the positive feedback we were extremely motivated to get this school year started on the right foot. There is an annual Coastal Clean Up Day that our school had been participating in for the past 4 or so years. Now with the green team in place we used the opportunity to jump in and help clean a 1 kilometer stretch of assigned beach of everything that didn’t naturally belong there.  On a sunny and bright Friday morning we met up with a fifth and one sixth grade class and their teachers at the beach where we were briefly instructed on how to collect, sort and count or weigh the trash each kid collected in their bucket. Here’s a brief video that my daughter put together of this memorable day in September:

Coastal Clean Up – September 15, 2017: 

More than 50 kids.

A brief introduction of the grand task ahead but an expert.

Each kid equipped with a colorful bucket.

They searched every square foot of beach in groups.

Yuck, yuck, and more yuck …

They sorted all that they had collected in their buckets into the large bins with the different categories such as cigarette stubs, plastic bottle caps, glass, hygiene articles, toys, paper cups, plastic cutlery etc. etc.

 

It took over an hour to sort through the different piles the kids had collected. Some pieces were actually counted, others weighed and all of it documented on forms provided by the organisation Forschungswerkstatt. The kids really enjoyed that process very much!

At the end of the day we had collected approx. 80 kg of trash! In an article published in the newspaper the next day they said that overall there was less trash on the beaches this year compared to prior year. According to the Forschungswerkstatt that result was either due to a very cold summer season (I can attest to that!) and therefore less beach goers which result in less trash or a heightened awareness of people (I really hope that’s the real reason) and / or the presence of more trash cans at beach.

Either way, I personally thought that this whole experience was worth our while and extremely fun and educational at the same time. 🙂

Wishing you a day with love, fresh water &  clean air!

Yasemin

 

P.S. Special shout-out to my little filmmaker Seda!

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