West Langley students challenge their school to go plastic free for a week

May 9, 2019

Just yesterday, we hosted the second annual I.D.E.A Summit along with the IDEAx finale, where teams of students tackled the problem of reducing plastics in our oceans. This kind of environmentalism must be contagious, because West Langley Elementary was host to a Plastics Challenge all week this week!

This student lead initiative challenged kids and families to pack lunches without any single use plastics! We took the time to chat with Olivia and Mariah, the two kids who brought this challenge to the school.

Tell me about your idea to reduce single use plastics in kids lunches this week? What was your inspiration?

Our inspiration was seeing all the plastic that ends up in places that it shouldn’t be. We noticed that, at places like the LEC, there was plastic all over the parking lot, and it was disgusting. We noticed the same thing at our school both outside and when we were monitoring primary classes at lunch. Mrs. Serviss, the Aboriginal Support Worker at our school also inspired us to do something about it instead of just sitting back and watching.

What do you see as challenges to be able to complete this challenge?

Getting other people to notice  what we’re trying to do and how much plastic they put in their kids’ lunches. People aren’t clear on what the difference is between single-use and reusable – the younger kids think they can’t bring their plastic containers, even though those are reusable. It’s also really hard to ‘edit out’ some things, like granola bar wrappers, because that’s what the companies pack them in. If someone takes the bar out of its wrapper and brings it in another container, they’re still throwing out the wrapper. People are so busy, and these products in single-use plastic are so easy. My family even don’t like reusable containers because either they take up too much space in the dishwasher or we have to hand wash them and we hate that.

 How successful do you believe this challenge will be?

It has been pretty successful so far, even though we didn’t advertise it as well as we would have liked. We are actually going to extend the challenge for another week. Because we are a small school with great participation, we think it will generally go well. We hope that if we push the challenge for a couple of weeks, people will form a new habit and the plastics will stay out of lunches.

What sorts of lunch foods should we give our kids in order to reduce single use plastics?

Healthier foods are easier to put in containers. Whole foods, like an apple, don’t even need a container of any kind. Things like homemade granola bars are healthier and can be sent in a reusable container with no plastic in the process at all. It is also fun to make things together as a family, so we can get double benefit.

Do you have any additional comments or ideas you’d like to share in regards to the challenge, or inspiring others to try to reduce their own single use plastic waste?

If, at our school, each kid DIDN’T bring a cheese string, a granola bar and a sandwich wrapped in cling wrap, we would remove 3900 pieces of plastic from the landfill in a week. That’s enough change to make a big difference. We now want to challenge another school to reducing their plastic use too.