As the world celebrated World Environment Day yesterday, the United Nations called on people everywhere to do something to take care of the Earth.
For the students of the Environmental Club of the St Joseph’s Convent in St Joseph, however, every day is World Environment Day.
Guardian Media sat down with five members of the club, president Sarah Applewhite, treasurer Kayla-Marie Solomon, secretary Shekinah Trim and members Liyen Sanchez and Hayley Valadere, along with their supervising teacher Simmika Seecharan-Bissram, at the school on Tuesday for a discussion on their drive.
All the girls are just 14-years-old but despite their age, they are trying to make to a difference by promoting the protection and preservation of the environment.
Seecharan, who is also the school’s Biology and Environmental Studies teacher, was a past president of the club as St Joseph’s is her alma mater.
During the interview, Trim explained why the club, which has been in existence for over 20 years, is important to her.
“I am very concerned for the earth with all the plastic that we use and the damage it is causing to the environment. I really want to be able one day to join the fight in cleaning the oceans because very soon we will have islands of trash in the seas all over the world,” Trim said.
Sanchez said she believes the pollution clogging the planet’s waterways and oceans are having a devastating effect not only on the environment but on the human population as well.
“The plastics that we are using and discarding are coming back in the food we are eating, so we are doing this to ourselves,” she said.
In their quest to make the planet a better place, the girls have installed a water filtration system that provides clean water for the school in order to cut down on the use of single-use plastic bottles.
Although bottled water is still being sold at the school, Applewhite said they have come up with ways to reduce and recycle those as well.
“We encourage everyone to use the filtered water system. There is a fee of $5 per student for the month or $20 for the term for unlimited refills, so that cuts down significantly on the need to buy bottled water. We also have recycle bins all around the school and every week we go around the classes and collect the bottles for recycling.”
They believe that the same water filtration system, if implemented in public spaces and shopping malls, can make a major impact on the amount of single-use plastics that T&T uses.
“If people could pay a lot less and get clean water free to drink it would cut down the amount of plastics that we use and discard in this country,” Trim explained.
She referenced the 2012 animated show Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, where the cast lived in a completely artificial world where clean air was sold by the bottle as all the trees had been destroyed and there was no oxygen readily available.
“The way people in this country treat the environment, I don’t think they will treat their houses like this. Why would you treat the country where you live in this manner?” she asked.
Solomon believes Trinidadians will only wake up when our reality becomes as critical Dr Seuss’ The Lorax.
“Only when people have to wear masks in order to breathe and we start running out of clean air will they understand the impact they are having on the environment,” she said.
The club also fully supports the movement calling for immediate action to combat climate change started by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. They participated in a local leg of the School strike for climate recently.
“Our main goal is the complete elimination of plastics in our school, our homes and our communities,” Applewhite said.
The club’s next move is to install solar panels and to replace a grow box with a hydroponics system at the school.
If you want to follow the club’s activities you can visit their profile on Instagram @Beat Plastics Crew.