In JGIS, we always try to create opportunities for our volunteers from different parts of our operations to bond with one another. This time around, we marked Earth Day with a volunteer appreciation event. In the spirit of the “No Plastic” theme of Earth Day this year, our activities were designed to educate our volunteers about decreasing their use of single-use plastics. Together, we bonded over food and learning how to stay “plastic-lite”.
To help us understand more about the issues surrounding plastics and sustainability, we invited our fellow NGO, Plastic-lite Singapore, to shed some light on the subject. Instead of the usual Powerpoint presentation, our learning was gamified by the speaker’s use of Kahoot!
Kahoot! should be familiar for any readers working in education, but if you are not, Kahoot! is an edu-tech quiz tool that has been popular among educators and students. Kahoot! proved to be just as engaging for the volunteers as for students– we competed to get as many points as possible. Fastest fingers first!
While having fun, we learnt some sobering facts about plastics and the potential environmental damage they can potentially cause. Did you know that you are ingesting microplastics (small fibres of plastics) whenever you drink bottled water? Or that up to 90% of seabirds have plastic waste in their guts? The damage that our single-use plastic habits can cause might not be visible immediately, but has serious consequences for our health and the environment.
We next had a roundtable discussion to clear up some misconceptions and to share any difficulties we had in reducing our use of plastics. While recycling plastics and using bioplastics does mitigate some of the potential harm caused, it would be better if we used less plastics in the first place. One major problem in going plastic-lite is that the use of plastics is imposed on us, as the average member of the public is not aware of the issue. Some of us related that most retailers or stallholders will use plastic items such as straws or bags by default, without asking us whether we needed them or not. One of our volunteers tried to request a ceramic mug instead of the usual plastic cup for her chilled coffee in a coffeehouse. It turned out to be much more difficult than she thought. Such anecdotes are an indicator that more public awareness is certainly needed on this issue!
Following the sharing, the JGIS volunteers watched the documentary “Battle of the Bag”, by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Even though it was released 10 years ago, it has aged remarkably well. The issues it raises are still relevant to us – a clear sign that in the decade between its original release and now, the overuse of single-use plastics remains pervasive. There has been recent progress and victories (such as the ban on plastic straws in the UK taking effect from 2019), but there is still much work to be done before society, and the world, can go plastic-lite.
After the documentary, we had the usual group photos before the gathering ended.
Everyone had a great time! If you would like to contribute to our work (and be part of such events), please write to us. We would be glad to hear from you!