Wales Sustainability Week is an important event in the year for the children as it helps us focus on the what we need to be doing to put Wales at the heart of a sustainable global economy.
Apart from the usual planting, bug hunting, litterpicks, energy monitoring.... We had a big brainstorming session about some of the different issues and asked what we could do about them. These included:-
Some of the pupils asked Miss Allen if the school would sign up to the Keep Wales Tidy campaign to ban mass balloon releases and Chinese Lanterns.
One of the children mentioned the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in May in which they released balloons, very pretty but it is littering and could potentially damage wildlife. We asked what could we do and one of the pupils wrote to Lord Coe about it.
Another issue was about litter we collect from our community, so some of the pupils used Sustainability Week to ask questions of the council about providing litter and recycling bins. In some parts of the city there are separate bins for recyclable materials, we asked if reminding and encouraging people to differentiate between the waste streams is a good idea or a waste of time? And asked if we could get a litter bin in our lane to help tackle the problem.
Many people get confused over what can and cannot be recycled so we had been working on our own 'PUT IT IN THE RIGHT BIN' campaign so again some of the children wrote to see if there was a better one out there or if there were ways we could improve it. An important part of the task was finding out who we could and should write to.
4. PACKAGING LABELS
Some packets say they can be recycled, probably knowing it's not yet really the case. We had a chat about who controls what is said on packets and if there should be some way of monitoring the claims.
5. WATER USE AND WASTE
They had some great questions about washing out items to be recycled, and how that affected water use and waste water. So they wrote to Dwr Cymru .
6. GROWING OUR OWN FOOD
When the school was built in 1902 it was surrounded by farmland next to the huge Ely racecourse so there was no need for playing fields. Which means we do not have large areas to plant orchards or garden. But even in the First War the children gave up their time to grow fresh vegetables for the troops on part of Ely Farm. Today we have to be a bit more resourceful and we grow tomatoes and strawberries in old milk pots, mint & herbs in coffee bags, spuds are grown in old tyres we even grow lettuce in ikea bags!
7. FOOD WASTE
Every week we try and put a 'Stop Food Waste tip' The average family throws away a third of the food it buys, but 87% thinks they do not waste food. There are very complicated issues around Food Miles, rotting itself food gives off methane which is far more damaging than CO2. We try and promote the growing of fruit and veg, local organic produce and Fairtrade products (which are produced more sustainably).
8. KEEPING OUR COMMUNITY INFORMED
We use our weekly online parents newsletter to keep governors, parents and everyone informed and involved about all the different issues at Millbank. As it's weekly it means that we update the websitee every week too. We often run news about events on sustainability (Green Babies event and hire an energy monitor) ask for input on things every year like the schools Eco-Code or Christmas Eco-Tips poster. So we thought about what we could do to encourage people to recycle more and listen to the problems they have in recycling.
We had a think about how we can get more learning resources about sustainable development. The United Nations was worried about Climate change and has asked UNESCO to co-ordinate a decade of Education on Sustainable Development. Green Gang has been our driving force behind that at Millbank and we looked to see what resources we could find to ensure everyone.
ABOUT WALES SUSTAINABILITY WEEK
Wales Sustainability Week is now in it's third year. The then Minister Jane Davidson AM kindly came to see us on the first one to answer some of our questions. She was going onto the Hay Festival to launch the One Wales:One Planet Document which suggested that sustainability was at the heart of Welsh Government with visions of every school "being a eco-Flag and Fairtrade school with Rights respecting and high attainment for all pupils no matter of their social background."
Last year we celebrated Wales Sustainability Week at an event in Chapter with a few other Cardiff Schools.
This year of course we had a special assembly as part of the Welsh Governments Funky Dragon team so we have already covered most of the work of Green Gang in that.
Most of the environmental work is done in the children's own time, they do not get taken out of the classroom to do litter picks or write letters. Whilst Green Gang take the lead in the school it is a very open group with most pupils being co-opted and taking part in one way or another. It's great to see that you will have lads come along and litter pick in the streets when they could be playing football in the yard.
RIO+ 20 CONFERENCE
In a few weeks politicians from around the world will meet at Rio, twenty years after they first met to talk about the climate. So it is more important than ever that we show how important an issue sustainability is to us. We will recognise many of the faces from our work in the past talking about Rio. Robert Swan and his 2041 voyage yatch will be there. Other people who visited Millbank are our sustainability Minister John Griffiths AM and Peter Davies will be there too trying to make a difference.
The Green Economy is a growth area and needs to be so, so we hope that the children's enthusiasm and hard work will one day pay dividends for them. As a UNESCO Associated School and a Rights Respecting school we think that learning about sustainability is very important especially as Article 29 of the UNCRC says that education should "Develop all the talents and abailities of a child" which could include many of those needed for sustainability and gardening aArticle 29 also includes a section that education should "The develop a respect for the natural environment."
Robert Swan OBE said that:-
“The biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
We think it's important that we get the children to engage in society and try and change our world for the better.