Ellen MacArthur is an inspiring person, you might know her as the fastest solo sailor to sail around the world, at age just 28. If you don’t know her, she’s worth a google and has a few Ted talks to her name. In those 71 days she spent alone at sea, her boat was her ‘world’ and the decisions she made were responsible for her incredible achievement but ultimately her survival. In her ‘world’ she carried all the essential ‘stuff’ she needed – food, fuel and other supplies like clothes and toiletries. She relied on this ‘stuff’ and could only use what she had, she knew her resources were finite. This led her to think about the actual world, where although scale and context were different, the resources were the same, finite. What you might not know about Ellen is that the realisation of this during this record-setting experience was so significant it caused her to change her career path and purpose in life.
Back on dry land, Ellen threw herself into finding out as much as she could about how we use resources in society, in everyday life, about how we waste resources in everyday life. She then set up a charity to raise awareness about this and provide education on how to eliminate waste through something called the circular economy… more about that in a bit.
But why am I telling you about Ellen and how does it relate to Oasis? Well, at the start of term we introduced our new environmental sustainability commitments (below), these are the ways in which, we as an educational organisation can have the most valuable and positive impact on the world around us. They are written in such a way that they embody our Oasis habits and ethos, making the connection that we as individuals can have on the health of our planet even stronger.
Everything we do to improve our environment will link to one or more of these three commitments and although we will be working on them all throughout the year, each term we will spotlight one throughout our academies. This term our focus is:
Self-controlled consumers; acting responsibly regarding waste to use resources sustainably
This means bringing our attention to ‘stuff’ not just when we’re about to throw it away, but stepping back much earlier than that and considering that ‘stuff’ as finite resources. Right from where they are sourced, where they go on to be designed and made into a product, then how we use them and finally how we dispose of them. This type of thinking is called, as Ellen termed it - the circular economy, but put simply it means being conscious of the choices we are making when it comes to ‘stuff’ and trying to keep things in use for as long as possible - if we even need them in the first place!
Most things when it comes to sustainability require us to adjust our thinking and behaviours slightly. Unfortunately we can’t keep living our lives the way we have been and expect that the planet will heal itself, but we can have a deep sense of hope that things can change and be transformed through our individual and collective actions. Being self-controlled consumers is about thinking more consciously about the stuff we have as having value. This doesn’t just mean monetary value, it could be useful, sentimental or even inspirational value. We’ve all heard of the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”! Just because it is no longer of value to us, it may be of value to someone else used either in the same way or with a new design and purpose. Once we acknowledge the value of something we better understand its full potential and we can use it, rather than use it up.
In one of her TED talks, Ellen talks about how when you’re a child anything and everything is possible. Whilst this may not be true literally, the point she is trying to make stands true – the creativity and imagination of young people make them natural innovators and we can certainly utilise this when thinking about ways to better use resources and eliminate waste. We often think of STEM subjects being the route to green careers but actually non STEM, creative subjects are just as important, after all they’re the ones designing and making our ‘stuff’! As educators we can encourage this ‘out of the box’ thinking and as an organisation we can look to support ideas that reduce waste to become reality.
This Recycling Week, here is some inspiration for being “self-controlled consumers” from our OCL academies and beyond:
OA Mayfield’s Prom Swap Shop
Originating from wanting all students to be able to enjoy their end of year Prom fully and knowing some students were finding it difficult to buy a Prom outfit, Mayfield set up a swap shop for dresses, suits and other items where students can hire their outfit for the event. Not only is this helping to make Prom more inclusive and affordable it is reducing the waste created by fast fashion, a significant environmental issue in today’s society. The shop has such an array of second-hand options donated by the community there’s something for everyone – stylish and sustainable!
OA Boulton’s Hessian Boards
Sustainability is well embedded at Boulton and this reaches all the way to small but not insignificant details such as their display boards. Instead of paper-backed boards that are easily damaged and therefore replaced regularly, they have opted for hessian as an environmentally friendly option in both material type but also its long lasting, low maintenance quality. The academy have noticed that this has saved them time and money too – an all-round winner!
Warndon’s Charging Cupboard’s Second Life
Demonstrating the close connection between academy and hub as well as a brilliant circular economy example, a change in IT equipment meant Warndon found themselves with some charging cupboards that were no longer required. The hub environmental group got creative and with some simple removing of wiring and surplus shelves they were able to repurpose the unit into a fully functioning storage cupboard on wheels for their hub food bank, not only has this saved the unit from landfill, it has helped solve storage issues and means it’s handily transportable too.
Schools Resource Exchange
The Facebook marketplace of Education has arrived! Sell, buy and swap surplus or unused items on this online platform specifically for schools. Newly created this site means we can all reduce our waste and reuse resources from others helping to support the circular economy.