Last week, I witnessed something pretty amazing – a bunch of secondary school students trying to make the world a better, greener place.
The Changeworks’ Make Waste History summit kicked off on Tuesday morning (19th June) at Portobello High School; an apt location considering that 2012 marks its 10th anniversary of being awarded the Eco Schools’ Green Flag.
The focus of the summit was ‘Waste Minimisation’, one of the Eco Schools’ Green Flag topics. Nine secondary schools (well, ten if you include Portobello) and four primary schools were in attendance, each with the same goal in mind – to spread the sustainable word and to learn about each other’s green achievements.
As a newbie to the summit, I didn’t know what to expect. I arrived at 8.30am and Jane, a fellow Changeworker, briefed me on the morning’s proceedings. Jane and I were to welcome the schools, give them their information packs and ensure that they knew what workshops they were supposed to be in. After a last-minute change to the schedule and a frantic rush to amend the programme, we were ready. The schools arrived, collected their packs and got to their allocated workshops safely. Then there was a well-deserved coffee break (at which the tables were laden with all sorts of delicious goodies), followed by more workshops.
The workshops covered a variety of topics, from how to conduct a ‘waste audit’ to how to be a ‘social reporter’. They were really well-received by all who attended and although (unfortunately) I didn’t get a chance to participate, everyone was very positive about them.
After stuffing myself silly on cakes at the coffee break, I should have been far too full for lunch. Then I saw what they had in store for us. The kind folks at Portobello High had prepared a veritable feast of sandwiches, wraps, pizza, samosas, pakoras and fresh fruit – I felt like a cartoon character with my eyes popping out at the sight! Aside from the foodie delights, the break was an ideal chance to interact with each other and to hear about the great work in which the attending schools were involved.
But there wasn’t too much time to sit around and relax – it was time for the Rubbish Art Competition! The schools were given the essential Blue Peter-esque materials – scissors, Pritt Stick and so on – along with a pile of rubbish. The idea was for each school to create a poster that would encourage others to reduce their waste and to think sustainably. As a member of the judging panel, I had my work cut out for me – teenagers seem to have got a lot artier since I was one – but in the end, we agreed that the clever ‘Mr Trash’ 3-D poster was the winner. The standard of all the submissions was fantastic, and it was great to see the students getting involved.
After the afternoon’s workshops, we got to see what we had been waiting for – the Trash Fashion Show! As the intricate, innovative designs paraded up and down the catwalk, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer talent of these students, and of the dedication they had shown in creating these pieces. I had taken part in a similar show back at school, but our dresses consisted of random egg shells stuck on layers of cling film – some of these creations could be sold in shops tomorrow! Changeworker Joe Alves was a fantastic compère, delivering witty one-liners right on cue and even dancing to the music in order to get the audience in the celebratory mood.
It was great fun and the best part was the reactions of the students themselves. They were all delighted to be there – there wasn’t a sulky or haughty display of adolescence in sight. No, these kids were genuinely eager to make a difference and that is something quite extraordinary. I had a memorable day, as I’m sure, did the schools that took part. Although the grand prize of £200 was awarded to Clifton Hall to spend on waste reduction projects at their school, the biggest reward was in the look of accomplishment on the face of each student. Well done to everyone for a great event – we’re looking forward to next year already!
Emma S xxx
PS: Check out the video from the day’s events!