| Lyna Mohamad |
IT BEGAN with a group of students at the Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Science College (MSPSBS) doing research on environmental issues for their General Paper and the June 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine, followed with a couple of shocking YouTube videos on the effects of plastic waste on marine life.
This led to the creation of the MS Green Activists by the students, who were determined to take action and spread awareness.
After meetings and passionate discussions, along with questions about the action – or rather its ineffectiveness – being taken to manage the problem, random suggestions soon began to form into more concrete ideas, and a plan of action was devised.
As it was important for others to be aware of the problems they were trying to address, the group started by compiling information concerning the usage and bad effects of single-use plastic, creating a school notice-board to alert fellow students to their cause and highlighting the key issues, and putting up posters on staircases and walls around MSPSBS to remind passers-by about the dangers of plastic waste.
The students began writing to local businesses such as Mum Bakery, Hua Ho, Guardian Pharmacy, McDonald’s and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, asking them to respond to the worldwide movement against excessive dependence on single-use plastics.
They also approached the Ministry of Education to suggest the introduction of plastic-free canteens in public schools, as change must start at grassroots level. This led to the Director at the Department of Schools expressing an interest in learning more about their goals and objectives.
Husnaa Haaniyah told the Sunday Bulletin, “Our efforts continued with speeches during our daily morning assembly, when different students were responsible for educating their peers on topics of interest as part of our 3ML (three-minute lecture) programme. Our emphasis was always on individual action. Adriana Batrisya binti Haji Zainie, Nurin Ridhwah binti Abdul Rahman, Izzatul Nazihah binti Junaidi and Hana
Najwana binti Mahmud all took turns to lead these talks.
“While all of us had our own academic responsibilities to focus on, there were moments when reforms had to be made to original plans and uncertainties inevitably lingered. Nevertheless, in unison, we succeeded in organising our very own Green Day at MSPSBS.”
Held on November 26, 2018, Green Day was a day dedicated to educating others concerning plastic and the importance of being involved in stemming the tide of plastic pollution, which was done by encouraging everyone to bring their own containers and cutlery to the college’s charity bake sale.
And to increase school participation, the group also organised a quiz on plastic pollution with Nur Arifah Aniqah binti Haji Azhar stepping in to design a beautiful, handmade eco-friendly box, for the answer sheets to be placed into.
During the Green Day event at MSPSBS, Eco-Warriors from the International School Brunei (ISB) also joined in, to show students that it is not impossible to have a plastic-free canteen and inspire others to be the change they wish to see in the world.
The group of spirited and knowledgeable Year 6 conservationists gave an inspirational talk to the students of MSPSBS on the different environmental initiatives at their own school, which became the first in Asia to receive two ‘Green Flag’ awards from the National Wildlife Federation.
Talks were also given by Hana Najwana and Izzatul Nazihah on the extent of the ‘Plastic Apocalypse’, while the college’s Mumtaz students shared their experiences of an Eco Advocacy Project in collaboration with the Singapore School of Science and Technology.
A prize presentation ceremony then followed, with Tracy Lee awarding CfBT-sponsored prizes of metal straws and copies of the National Geographic magazine to the lucky winners of the environmental awareness quiz, while the Eco-Warriors presented eco-friendly gifts to their hosts.
The day concluded by symbolically displaying the plastic waste annually generated by a typical Bruneian, in a green circle representing Earth. The Green Day participants then joined forces to remove the plastic waste, to stress the importance of individual action in helping to stem the tide of plastic pollution.
The Green Flag awards was established in 1992, in response to the need for the younger generation to be more actively involved in environmental conservation at a local level, as highlighted in the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. To be eligible for the prestigious award, a school must complete a set of criteria with associated point values and applications that must be renewed every two years.
The award is not limited to private schools only, as public schools are also capable of crea-ting an environmentally aware committee, in striving together towards plastic-free canteens, as well as more innovative and ecological options.
“By implementing this kind of community, we are not only creating a greener Earth, but also expanding the circle of environmentalists,” said Husnaa. “Learning about ISB’s achievements has fuelled the desire of the MS Green Activists to do more in 2019.”
Besides organising a Green Day, the MS Green Activists have also been successful in attracting the attention of McDonald’s. In a meeting held early last month, three MS Green Activists representatives discussed a future environmental publicity project with the company.
The students also collected BND155 for German environmentalist Andreas Bussinger, who recently ran from Kudat to Pontianak to raise funds for environmental initiatives on the island, such as the Light Up Borneo project and the Sintang Orangutan Centre.
With plastic being an ongoing focus in 2019, the MS Green Activists plan to take their campaign further, while their self-governed committee is also working on achieving a Green Flag.
“We have started work on obtaining this by working towards a plastic-free canteen, and encouraging students to bring their own cutlery and bottles. We also look forward to hosting another Green Day in 2019 and raising more money to donate to environment-focussed initiatives,” said Husnaa.
Reflecting on the unsettling images, videos and articles used in preparing for her talk on Green Day, Hana Najwana said, “It has made us all more determined to go to even greater lengths for a better world.”