[Student Essay] See Green, See Life.
Healim Ro, Geo Suh, Rachel Ayun Woo (Grade11), Branksome Hall Asia
That day was a complete game-changer. We saw a bird feeding on abandoned plastics, and we couldn’t do anything about it. It made us realize that the trash is not only unsightly but actually threatens other creatures. How could we be so selfish and thoughtless? Since then, we always felt a heavy burden on our shoulders whenever we walked around the GEC (Global Education City) and were confronted by even the smallest amount of trash. So, we decided to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Branksome Hall Asia, located on Jeju Island, is an international school where many different opportunities are provided for students. Our school encourages and supports students to freely create and pursue their passions through a wide range of after-school activity clubs called CASE. They focus on four different strands: Creativity, Activity, Service, and Enrichment. In particular, Service clubs promote a variety of ways in which to encourage a spirit of service and ensure students understand their basic human obligations. Through this platform we decided to take action in an effort to solve the problem regarding waste production and disposal by creating a Service club called the ‘GEC Cleaners’.
Our community is home to four different international schools and their large population of students, faculty and families from diverse age groups and backgrounds. The GEC is located in the middle of what was originally a heavily forested area, much of which has been retained in the areas closely surrounding the schools and associated urban developments. Efforts have been made to maintain as much of the forest’s biodiversity as possible, meaning that we still have many species of flora and fauna remaining in close proximity to where we live and work.
Our club activity follows goal 15 of the United Nations SDG (Sustainable Development Goals). Goal 15 addresses ‘life on land’, with a vision to ‘pursue, protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems by managing forest sustainability’. This SDG is just one of 17 connected goals that share the mission of achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. We believe our action of collecting trash has a positive impact on the environment as well as raising awareness for local residents of the need to respect and care for our earth, even in the smallest ways.
As student leaders by example, we coordinate students to actively pick up litter around the school zone, while ensuring they do so with an understanding of protocols to deal with any hazardous materials. When the club first started, our members created various maps that covered the whole GEC so we could ensure a complete coverage of which areas had been targeted for garbage collection without missing or unnecessarily repeating areas within set time periods. Every Monday for about an hour after school, our enthusiastic team walks the collection routes around the GEC collecting rubbish or identifying problem areas for later attention. We then properly dispose of that which we collect and analyze which kinds of garbage are causing the biggest problems or are most common. Interestingly, around the exterior of the school zone, the discarded material that we find to be the most common is cigarette butts. We see 80 cigarette butts per day, on average and in response are pursuing a new campaign that develops an awareness and prevention strategy in an effort to reduce the vast number of cigarette butts that we regularly find around our local community.
We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to acknowledge the world’s problems and do whatever we are able to do, while we can. Walking around the streets and seeing the increasing amount of garbage can be depressing. It can seem too big a problem for one or two people to remedy. As a result, we sometimes tend to ignore or avoid our moral duty, such as not placing trash in the appropriate recycling facility just because of the inconvenience. We may also think that it’s not our responsibility to clean up other people’s mess or that removing a single item of trash would make a difference. However, we should all be aware of the fact that a small action is the first step to big change.
Through ‘GEC Cleaners’ our goal is not only to reduce the amount of litter by physically removing it but to also influence others through our Service initiatives and raise awareness of the importance of caring for the natural environment. Especially as Jeju Island is a region that promotes eco-friendly attitudes and actions, we hope students in our schools may continue to be leaders in the pursuit of this goal. We will carry on our mission to pursue this tangible, local contribution to the global issue of waste disposal and responsible custody of our one and only earth. No matter how small a contribution may be, we can all make a difference.