Litter Free Lunches for a Litter Free Future

Litter is a serious problem and has detrimental effects on local ecosystems. In Coláiste Íosagáin, because we are an environment in which food is being consumed, we face a constant struggle with litter. To combat this everyday, at least one group of four or five people take ten minutes to go around the school and pick up waste that has been left behind. Mostly the food litter comprises food packages, cling film, tin foil or biodegradable

food waste. However this is simply managing the symptoms of our litter problem, not the cause. Our school has an over-reliance on non recyclable food packaging and does not have the knowledge to properly dispose of it. This is apparent after seeing poorly separated, overflowing green and black bins.

This behaviour is unsustainable and prompted us to find a solution to our packaging problem. Within our group we borrowed inspiration from the ‘YRE Litter Less’ competition and a litter free lunch competition we entered while at an eco conference. In short, we decided to begin a litter free lunch campaign of our own.

The idea is to encourage students to bring in litter free lunches and by doing this take a moment to think about the environmental impact that their actions have on our planet as a whole. We have chosen the first year students as our focus group. In this way they will hopefully carry this new knowledge with them throughout their years in Coláiste Íosagáin.

We planned an action week from the thirteenth to the sixteenth of March and began to spread the information among the first year students.

Before the project a delegate from the Green Committee took time to visit each of the first year classes to explain the project to them. During this time we explained the competition. Each day during the following week a delegate visits their class to track how many people participated by bringing in ‘litter free lunches.’ We defined a litter free lunch, as a lunch that was free from non recyclable waste, with an exception made for biodegradable food waste (for example apple cores). These numbers were then be totalled to see which class made the biggest effort to be litter free. This class will be given a prize. Participation was voluntary of course, but we felt the inclusion of a prize would be a reasonable incentive.

After the four days we collected our results. Class A brought in 25 ‘litter free lunches’ throughout the week with an average 6.25 litter free lunches per day. Class B brought in 19 ‘litter free lunches’ throughout the week, averaging at 4.75 per day, and Class C brought in 22 ‘litter free lunches’ throughout three days, averaging at 7.3 litter free lunches per day. As Class C missed a day, a direct comparison is not possible. However if we only count the first three days. Class A and Class C are thus tied for totals and averages.

 While these numbers are small, they carry a hopeful message. They show the interest that people have in taking small steps towards a greener lifestyle. Although not everyone participated, everyone gained a new insight into how small actions can have big consequences both positive and negative. In future we hope to spread this project to a larger group of students in the school.

To raise awareness of this issue we have used social media (the school’s twitter account) to show the efforts that students made to contribute to our litter free lunch campaign. Currently we are contacting both The Dundrum Gazette and Raidio na Life to spread awareness amongst a wider audience.

However while the results of our project may not yet have saved the earth, they are definitely a start and show encouraging signs for a litter free future in our school!