In a balanced natural ecological system, the needs of the elements within the system do not exceed the input provided by the system itself. There is no such thing as “waste” because everything produced by the system becomes healthy input without ever being in excess of what the system can process. Natural systems are cyclical and regenerative.
To “regenerate” means to re-grow, re-form or be reborn. This is a very different term than the word sustainability. To “sustain” means to continue or maintain. The truth is that many lifestyle habits of present day are not regenerative, nor are they something that we should be striving to maintain. We often hear terms associated with sustainability such as “buy green”, “cruelty free”, “made from recycled materials”, and “organic”, but these catch phrases are usually applied to choices within a framework that is already destructive—consumerism, factory production, overpackaging, monoculture farming, etc….
We rarely hear things in mainstream environmental messaging like “drive less.” Instead we are encouraged to buy a car that gets better gas mileage. This is because the mainstream sustainability movement is being used as a form of marketing. It is playing to the human conscience while continuing to keep financially profitable systems in place. In order to fix the social and environmental problems on the Earth, we need regenerative solutions, which are not financially profitable by corporate standards.
“Consume less; share better.”
– Hervé Kempf (reporter, environmentalist)
Pope John Paul II advises that “modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle.” And Cameron Sinclair, humanitarian architect, expresses frustration “when sustainability gets used as a buzzword. For 90% of the world, sustainability is a matter of survival.”
We have a responsibility as parents and educators to be willing to give up some conveniences in order to model more regenerative habits. As Rudolf Steiner indicates, “you must be for the children the representative of the good, the true and the beautiful. The children must be drawn to truth, goodness and beauty simply because the children are drawn to you yourself.”
It is important to remember that we don’t have to do everything at once—that the goodness and truth that Steiner speaks of live in authentic striving. Each year, the LivingLAB is creating an opportunity for the whole community to explore a theme together. This year the theme is waste reduction and our goal is for the entire community to delve into an honest and thorough exploration of this topic at school and at home in age appropriate ways. This does not simply mean to separate waste into the correct containers, but rather (much more complexly) to reduce our use of disposable products, which is a lifestyle change.
This fall, the 8th grade worked with Mr. Bates to calculate the progress we made on our recent waste audit through Clackamas County Green Schools as compared to our results from 2015. Here are some of the findings:
- We increased the amount of food in the compost by 52%
- Garbage weight decreased by 51%
- Recycle waste decreased by 47%; however the rate of contamination increased from 3.7% to 11.8%
The full report generated by Grade 8 can be found below.
Contamination in recycling is the reason why China has stopped importing paper and plastics from abroad, which means that many products that were once recyclable are now landfill trash. Starting November 15 (“America Recycles Day”), PWS will be participating in a recycling challenge sponsored by one of the only US companies that recycles plastic film – the plastic lumber company Trex. There will be new bins set out for your (clean!) grocery bags, produce bags, cereal bags, newspaper sleeves, ziplock bags, bread bags, case overwrap, and bubble wrap. This is a national challenge and the winners will be announced on Earth Day.
The 8th grade will continue exploring ways for our community to make even more progress in our next waste audit. In LivingLAB class with Jamina Shupack, 10th graders made stencils to more clearly label waste receptacles in the high school with a goal of reducing contamination.
In the spirit of St. Martin, please personally reflect on our community goal of waste reduction and ask yourself, “what can I give up that will make an impact for the better?” Have ideas to share? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.