Educating the Next Generation of Eco-Warriors
by Tom Szaky, Founder and CEO: TerraCycle
The first waste I used to create a product was worm poop (which is a great organic fertilizer), and when I was desperate for an affordable way to package my fertilizer, I turned to used soda bottles and realized just how much trash was out there and how much potential there was in this trash. My whole way of thinking has shifted. The way I viewed waste, packaging, products, consumerism everything had changed. I wanted to help people to this same realization and that was why I originally started the school recycling fundraiser aspect of TerraCycle.
I’d like to avoid any clichés here about “going for it” and just pressing on by “thinking outside the box,” so instead I’m going to zero in on something else. It is very important to teach younger generations to challenge convention and to rethink the way they view the world and how they interact with the product they purchase and consume.
There’s no denying that Earth is now desperate for some environmental solutions. Regardless of what is going on now, and no matter how many environmental problems we’ve already uncovered, there will be more coming. And the easiest way to solve them is to think ahead. Necessity is the mother of all invention, but we have to be able to predict what necessities the future will hold.
Teaching this to children certainly is not easy. It is an idea that must be deeply ingrained in any curriculum, and I think curricula about recycling and making use of what’s in front of you can be a help to this idea. So once our school programs grew larger enough, we partnered with the Cloud Institute to create a non-branded, free curriculum for students of all levels and ages.
In addition, hands-on projects, such as upcycling waste through the TerraCycle Brigades, can be helpful for students to understand the tangibility of the problem and the tangibility of a solution. Having students dream up their own solutions to problems and create the answers can help facilitate innovative thinking and problem solving – memorizing facts and dates and statistics, while certainly important, isn’t going to foster this kind of thinking.
My advice, in short, is this: encourage students to think ahead, and create projects that have them thinking about how to solve problems in the future – even personal problems or small town problems that could crop up a few years ahead. After awhile, they’ll be thinking about the Earth’s problems in the same way, especially if they’re involved in hands-on recycling and Earth problems.
TerraCycle’s goal is to ‘Eliminate the Idea of Waste’. We know we won’t be able to accomplish this on our own. No matter how much waste we collect and recycle now, more will be created in the future. So a key part of our mission is to educate, inspire and empower future generations to be social entrepreneurs equipped to tackle the world’s future problems.
What are your ideas for helping to educate and engage future generations?
Share with friends