Connecting the dots is what it is all about. When we speak of building an environmentally literate citizenry, we want people not only to be knowledgeable about environmental subjects but also to connect the dots to apply the knowledge to action. America’s Water Future is working to help do just that.
In one of the first examples of an America’s Water Future program, TOMRA—a global company specializing in recycling solutions—sponsored pilot workshops and festivals connecting water and recycling near their U.S. headquarters in Connecticut. As Project WET’s partner in Connecticut, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) organized the events.
The program began at the Project WET USA Coordinators’ Conference in Greenville, SC; where Project WET Foundation President and CEO Dennis Nelson had unveiled a new activity, “Zeroing in on No Waste”, to coordinators. The activity is designed to make explicit the connections between water, improved solid waste management through recycling and cleaner rivers, streams, lakes and even oceans. Students loved the activity as it directly positioned them as active participants in taking positive action in their own school yards and likely back home.
Later in the fall, the Project WET Foundation and TOMRA began to discuss ways that the company could support a recycling-focused education project under the America’s Water Future banner. The Project WET Foundation got in touch with us at CT DEEP, and ultimately TOMRA decided to sponsor a series of workshops and festivals for teachers and students near Shelton, incorporating the recycling theme. Two teacher/facilitator workshops in November reached 18 teachers and 12 facilitators (master trainers). Based on workshop registrations, teachers could register to hold a Recycling Festival at their school. Some 380 students and teachers were able to participate in activities and lessons highlighting the connection between recycling and water in November and December, and an additional festival is scheduled this spring for another 115 students.
It was a great experience for us in Connecticut, and the timing was perfect. Connecticut Project WET has begun to restructure its facilitators and their role as educators to help broaden topics and themes addressing issues in our state. It started with Storm Water, which was an easy link, and grew to include fisheries and now recycling. Recycling has become a big focus here, because Connecticut is unique in its trash, energy and recycling plans. The state has announced the following goals:
- Increase recycling to 60 percent by 2020 (the current rate is 30 percent)
- Have public remove the term “landfill” from their vocabulary (Connecticut has no active landfills because trash is burned for energy, which is not an ideal solution either)
- Understand that recycling is the law for everyone
- Educate on the Hierarchy of Solid Waste management
- Understand single stream recycling to become better recyclers
Meanwhile, our goals at Project WET Connecticut include:
- Increase awareness of water as resource for everything
- Connect water conservation with natural resource conservation (i.e., materials management)
- Reduce waste of water in processing of goods
- Provide public with opportunities to expand education around resources and water to be next generation water stewards.
- Understand the benefits of clean stream recycling, which prevents the contamination of sorted materials by using reverse vending machine technology.
CT DEEP this year had already asked me to help create a recycling education network. My first thought was to go to our WET facilitators because they are already in schools and communities working on natural resource topics. We had started building a recycling content training but needed a way to get them out and using things. Connecting recycling to WET provided a specialized training for facilitators on how to connect the theme through existing WET activities, augmented by WILD and PLT and now the new Zero in on No Waste Lesson. The TOMRA project gave things the kick start and application we needed to generate local action.
I have to thank the Project WET Foundation and TOMRA for this opportunity. We look forward to using this subject as a focus for our water festivals here in Connecticut. I would love to share agendas and project with others who might be interested in expanding connections in your state and facilitator training. Send an email and I will gladly respond.
- 2 professional development workshops
- 4 water festivals at schools
- Active TOMRA participation in all events
- Facilitators reinvigorated
- Direct connection to families on CT recycling practices
- Increased awareness with schools and school recycling practices
- DEEP recycling offices interest and WET materials
- New partners