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Sustainable Living in Early Learning - Part III - Say No to Plastics


A couple of weeks back, we had shared a blog post with focus on reduce, reuse and recycle. There we had shown a picture of a common sight in many cities - a towering landfill, stinking because of mixing different types of waste. One portion of that waste is plastic waste, which creates major problems because of the following:

1. It is non-biodegradable. That means it cannot be broken down by living organisms

2. Put a little differently, it is poison for living things. It cannot get absorbed or digested in their bodies, and by that same logic, if consumed, it does not come out of their bodies

These pictures are pretty common sights these days, and not just in India anymore, though the magnitude may be higher here. One finds animals on the streets foraging for food in waste generated by us, the food often left in plastics. These plastics often end up in the stomachs of these animals, who do not know what they are consuming.

A lot of our plastic waste ends up in water bodies, and ultimately in the stomachs of the many aquatic animals, who again, end up consuming those plastics without realizing they are consuming poison.

Now human beings know how this works, so we try not to eat the plastics. But, given that the plastic waste cannot be broken down, we are still looking at a bleak scenario in the near future, where instead of looking at nature's sights, we may be looking at hills of plastics - not a pretty sight, and certainly not good for us in the long term. 

And when we try to burn plastics to get rid of them, we are doing more harm as we are contributing to atmospheric pollution.

This is some of the heavy stuff. Most of us our guilty of contributing to this menace at an individual level, at times, without giving much thought to it. We love to shop for new shoes, we love eating junk food which comes in single use plastics, and even though the fight against plastics has been around for 20+ years (I remember in 1999, when I was still in school, the SAY NO TO PLASTICS campaign had already begun), our consumerist mindset has only added to this problem.

It is time for each of us, at an individual level, to start doing our bit. This also includes a set of values which we must pass on to our children. This must become a part of education - in preschools, in daycares, in formal schools, and generally as a part of regular conversation.

I would like to share here some common ways we are encouraging our children to generate plastic waste, and some common ways to counter that problem.

LET US NOT PASS ON A CONSUMERIST MINDSET TO OUR CHILDREN

Our children end up using a lot of plastic made products, many of which do not have long lives. This they do without understanding the implication on the environment. A simple example, Avengers or Spiderman water bottles with plastic straws. The bottle caps or straws get damaged, and these bottles end up in bins. For a child under 5, it is easy to see through 2-3 bottles per year. As opposed to this, a copper bottle is a healthier option, and now also available in pretty designs. This is an easy switch to make, even if it costs a little more.

You can find many more such examples - cheap plastic toys which last all of 2 days, and so many more. In simple language, we can make our children partners in the journey towards sustainable living. Make the alternative which is more eco friendly an attractive option for your child. And as they grow older, the conversations should focus around why this is necessary.

AVOID SINGLE-USE PLASTICS WHERE POSSIBLE

Most of us have the tendency to demand carry bags whenever we are out shopping. Big shopping hubs have moved to paper carry bags, but these have no longevity. Smaller shops will still offer you polybags, which keeps adding to the problem till the time an effective ban is implemented. 

When I was in school, we were given a simple mantra, which I follow till date, and which I now share with you. Use cloth bags, and take them with you wherever you go. These are reusable in nature, with long lives. I still have cloth bags which are 10 years old at least, and I have not had the need to use them once and then throw them away.

When your children start growing older, you often send them to the neighborhood shop to purchase milk or bread, send them with a cloth/jute bag to bring back the purchased items.

Remember, asking for carry bags is not a symbol or prestige, just like carrying your own cloth bag is not a symbol of embarrassment.

SEGREGATE YOUR PLASTIC WASTE WHERE ITS USE IS UNAVOIDABLE

It is understandably difficult to eliminate all plastic consumption in one go. This is a gradual process. Wherever you find yourself generating such waste, reuse if possible, and segregate from your other waste where not. 

This plastic waste can be recycled by authorized agencies, thereby reducing the fresh plastic footprint on the planet. Segregating the waste is not a difficult task, and it is easy to teach this to your kids too.

Kids, where you find your parents faltering, I charge you with the responsibility of bringing your parents back on track too,

Parents, these are important conversations with your kids, demand your child's schools to be a part of it too. 

As a preschool and daycare, Morning Glorie must pledge to reduce their plastic footprint - reuse and recycle the plastic we already have, avoid purchasing new aids which are made of plastic, and segregate the plastic waste from other kinds of waste. We are already doing this, but we must do more, and so must all educational institutes. 

It is a collective responsibility, let us all do our small bit to make the earth a better place to live in. 




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