Have We Become a “Throw-away” Society?

TEA 2nd-Graders Explored The Waste Stream And Found New Ways Limit Our Consumption

This year, the second grade Silver Peak crew at TEA explored the new norm of a “throw-away” society. In modern day, people buy unnecessary amounts of “stuff”; this includes clothes, toys, games, trinkets, accessories, magazines, this list goes on. The “stuff” is used for a while, but eventually, the possessor will grow tired of it and throw it away. Why is this? The students explored why this is a new standard and how they themselves can limit their waste.

As they began to understand more, the Silver Peak crew realized how bad waste is for our mother earth and how her fragile ecosystems are destroyed so rapidly. They dove into the pollinators/bee crisis to see how one particular species is being destroyed. Further, the second-graders studied how uncontrolled waste management can harm humans, particularly looking at the Black Plague that was started from trash.

The continuation of the second-graders’ search for a solution led them to explore the “waste stream” of trash and recycling. First, they ventured to the landfill. This gave a thorough idea of what exactly happens to the “stuff” we throw away.

Next, the Silver Peak Crew visited the Tahoe Thrift Store. Initially, they entered the thrift store with an idea that everything there was helping the earth through reusing materials, but quickly they learned that all of the books are thrown away, even if there is just a little tear or dog-eared page. This upsetting experience led the students to write letters to the Tahoe Thrift Store, asking that they consider an alternative to throwing away the books. Some of the student’s solutions included donating them to the hospital or Veterans’ hall.

Partnering with a company called Terra Cycle, the second-graders have incorporated a recycling program into TEA and even rolled it out to the entire community

Additionally, this crew personally experienced what it is like to go zero waste on an overnight trip to Hutchinson Lodge. Here, they made their own toothpaste and soaps. Also, to get perspectives from everyone, they visited the Patagonia Distribution Center to get a first-hand look at how large companies are taking a part to reuse past materials.

Finally, the Silver Peak Crew launched a plan. Partnering with a company called Terra Cycle, the second-graders have incorporated a recycling program into TEA and even rolled it out to the entire community so families can get involved as well. Terra Cycle takes plastic wrappers for free to be turned into park benches, tables, and decking. The students did a trash audit and determined the two top waste items were squeeze pouches and bar/chip wrappers.

Both can be collected and shipped off to Terra Cycle. Aside from the recycling initiatives, their focus was to reduce. The second graders incorporated this initiative into their everyday lives by finding ways to limit their consumption in the first place.

In conclusion, this expedition was a success for both the students, teachers, and the overall communiTEA. Teacher Colleen Carr reflected on the expedition with “trash is easily out of sight/out of mind for kids. Just having them see what happens to our waste and understand how much of it actually goes into landfill was incredibly powerful. Additionally, teaching the kids helped empower them to put a little bit of pressure on their families to reduce waste.” By encouraging younger generations to take the initiative to reduce, reuse, and recycle in their own hands, they can be role models to all ages and we can move away from being a “throw-away” society.