Fifth graders Mina Adada, Tina Salem, and Aya Boumosleh learned first-hand what happens when you take action. As part of last year’s inaugural ACS chapter of the Roots and Shoots lunch club, the three girls learned how to go about identifying a problem, and the steps needed to address it, under the guidance of Elementary School Principal Diann Osterlund.
Founded by animal activist Jane Goodall, the Roots and Shoots program teaches kids worldwide how to take action and stand up for people, animals and the environment. Osterlund asked her students to choose a category and select one topic for the club to address. After some discussion, as well as a presentation by high school students that raised their ecologicalawareness, the club selected the environment, targeting the problem of waste.
The club then separated into small groups, and Mina, Tina and Aya joined together. Reminded daily of the trash crisis by the overcrowded dumpsters on the streets of Beirut, the three girls started out by researching just how much waste Lebanon creates per day. The results stunned them: the country alone produces 4,000 tons of garbage daily, with the average persongenerating as much as seven pounds each day.
The girls then decided to focus on what they could do to help reduce the waste generated by the ACS cafeteria. After careful observation of the types of materials used in food packaging and presentation, they came up with a few suggestions on how Mr. Elie Sahyoun, Cafeteria Manager, could make the dining hall more eco-friendly and submitted a proposal to him.
When they arrived back on campus after summer vacation and saw that some of their suggested changes had been made, they were “surprised and happy,” exclaimed Tina.
The new changes that took effect this year — thanks to the girls and ACS’ catering company Cat & Mouth — include the use of washable containers instead of plastic for desserts and the elimination of paper placemats on the elementary student lunch trays.
“Before, there used to be paper under the plates of the elementary school lunch trays that were just for decoration — and now, this year, they’ve removed them,” said Mina excitedly. The cafeteria additionally has stopped giving out paper bags for take-away items, unless requested.
What’s next for the budding environmentalists? Their next move will be to take their eco-friendly initiatives school-wide. Nominated by Osterlund for the ACS “Go Green Team,” Tina, Mina and Aya will serve as the Elementary School representatives for the school’s green initiatives alongside appointed student peers in Middle and High School.
“Committing to the ‘Go Green Team’ is a natural evolution from where they started, and will give the girls a leadership opportunity,” said Osterlund.
This year’s goal for the ‘Go Green Team’ is to reduce the waste of plastic and paper in the entire school. “We are working [on getting the school] to use water dispensers instead of plastic water bottles,” explained Mina.
The girls will soon be writing an article to obtain student, faculty and staff buy-in. “We want to advertise to people to bring in reusable containers and mugs to school,” said Mina. “And if they don’t bring their own containers and mugs, the school should charge 1,000 or 2,000 LL for them to buy a paper or plastic kind,” Tina added.
Tina looks back on what she has learned from this experience and relays: “If you work hard and get everyone’s [support], you can succeed.”
As for Roots and Shoots, the club has started up again and will choose a new initiative for the year. But the three girls will stay committed to the club’s initial cause. “The girls have found their thing,” Osterlund said. “They are committed to the ‘Go Green Team’ and will continue working with the cafeteria to solve the problem — separate from Roots and Shoots.”