Students to attend environment summit
Ascension Collegiate environmental group Gaia will be one of 30 teams, and the lone representative from Canada, to attend a summit in California focusing on ways to reduce plastic waste.
The Plastics are Forever International Youth Summit will take place in Long Beach, California, from March 11-13, and will include youth from 14 countries. The educational summit, organized by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, is designed to help young people find action-oriented solutions to reducing plastic waste in their communities.
Ascension science teacher Patricia George, who started Gaia at the school 10 years ago, says she first found out about the summit through the Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Network.
“ When we heard about this youth summit, we just thought immediately that it would be an amazing way to get expert help for fleshing out this project properly.”
From there, her group put together a package outlining details of the project the Ascension group would undertake to reduce the use of plastic in its community.
The group’s winning entry was chosen from among 74 others. Representing the school at the summit will be George, students Crystal Lee Jones, Amber Samms, Justin Stone, and Zach Tuttle, and vice-principal Daniel Grimes.
The summit will feature a variety of guest speakers, including scientists, filmmakers, and media experts, amongst others.
George says issues concerning the use of water and plastic bottles were already on the group’s agenda following a presentation given by provincial environmental group Project Green at the school last year. Gaia had also been encouraged to tackle the plastic problem after attending the RADHOC Youth Leadership Conference at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN).
The group is putting together a proposal to replace drinking fountains at schools with alternative drinking and water-filling stations. The proposal would also encourage the use of refillable stainless steel containers and bisphenol A-free water bottles. Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been declared a toxic substance in Canada and is banned from use in baby bottles.
“ We’re also going to be presenting to the Eastern School District,” says George. “ We’re hoping they will come on board, and over a number of years, replace the water fountains with water-filling stations.”
Similar devices have been installed at MUN, and George says the university is also phasing out selling bottled water on campus. She hopes the trip to California will be of benefit to the project.
“ They are going to be showing us how to make a maximum impact with our presentations and with our project in general.”
The trip to California will be one of George’s last Gaia related endeavours before she retires from teaching in June. She says no teachers have thus far expressed interest in taking over the group once she leaves.
“I’d like to see it continue,” says George, who will remain an advocate for the environment once she exits the classroom through her involvement with the joint management committee of the Shearstown Estuary.
In the meantime, Gaia will be holding fundraising events to help the students attend the summit.