by Molebatsi Matshana
While we were experiencing the warmest year of the decade in 2019, Greta Thunberg was focusing the world’s attention on the climate crisis. I was inspired to take on whatever action I could. I started small, offering my time as a volunteer at WESSA, and attending site cleanups, and even though I felt I was making a contribution, I wanted to do more. I decided to approach WESSA’s Head of Membership to find out what more I could do. They offered me some insight and I eventually decided that the best way to make an impact on the largest scale possible was to change my school’s negative environmental impact. I decided to turn my school, Michael Mount Waldorf School located in Bryanston, Johannesburg, into an internationally recognised eco-school.
Eco-schools are a growing phenomenon that encourage young people to engage in their environment by allowing them the opportunity to actively protect it, and are an ideal way for schools to embark on a meaningful path towards improving the environment. It starts in the classroom, where passionate teachers are identified and engaged with to discuss ideas of change, and then students are engaged to increase participation. What begins as an idea expands to real action within the school and eventually fosters change in the community at large, having a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of young people, their families, schools and local authorities. With the help of my Physical Sciences teacher, we created an environmental group dedicated to changing my school’s environmental impact and started the process of becoming an eco-school.
The most immediate issue we needed to tackle was waste management – there was a big littering problem and we had a below-par recycling system. I began working with the school’s ground staff to decide on the best way to implement better waste management systems and we eventually created different recycling bins, colour coded and labelled to make recycling easier, and are also looking into partnering with a recycling company to ensure the waste is properly recycled. As well as establish an environmental group within the school that is dedicated towards scaling up the initiative in order for us to have a larger impact on our community in the future, such as future goals to educate students on the environment and dedicate time to restore polluted parks and rivers in the Bryanston area and more.
At the moment, we are focused on improving waste management within our own school, building a strong framework for how more of these activities can happen in the future. Once 12 this is in place, we intend on connecting with other schools in the area, helping them to take their own environmentally-focused interventions, and create an active network of eco-schools focused on building a sustainable future.