Sustainability has been quite the rage the last couple years, especially in my home town of Portland, OR. It amazes me that people’s appetites seem insatiable for new ways to be more sustainable at work, home, school, and while playing. While much of this noise strikes me as marketing buzz (I’m a greenwasher for sure), the root of the cause is as pure as a mountain stream. We live on a planet that deserves better treatment, and this is a topic that cannot be ignored.
Part of the reason I am skeptical about all the hype surrounding sustainability is that it’s not a new topic… to me. I was raised with such ideals front and center. The more I speak with others, the more I learn how rare that was. (Thanks Mom and Dad!) For this reason, I am really encouraged about the growing trends in educating kids about sustainability at a young age, in schools. While this learning should ideally begin at home, schools have an opportunity to educate young people who will hopefully grow into more aware adults that share these practices with their eventual families. Not to mention the fact that sustainability topics can easily be woven into subjects being taught already.
An interesting example can be found in the relationship between the Rob Machado Foundation and the Cardiff Education Foundation. Through a unique partnership between the foundation of environmentally minded surf pro Rob Machado and a local elementary school district in his hometown, students are gardening, composting, and selling their bounty to local restaurants. Through their efforts to reduce waste in the cafeteria, they have reduced their waste from eight 55-gallon trash cans per week down to two. Learn more here.
Hats off to the community around Cardiff School; motivating and organizing groups to generate these types of results is no small task. In support of this effort, there are a growing number of organizations working to empower school districts, teachers and parents to incorporate sustainability into the education process. Here are some resources to consider:
• International: Eco-Schools is an international organization that has developed a methodology to assist schools in organizing their own efforts to make schools more environmentally friendly. This site is a solid resource.
• SOLV’s K-16 Education + Youth Leadership. This Oregon-based organization is well known for beach clean ups and other community volunteer programs, but also has a number of programs geared at helping schools integrate environmental clean up into K-16 curriculums. The Youth Leadership program is geared more towards high school students and meets the new Oregon high school requirements.
• OFRI Education Programs. OFRI is a state agency in Oregon tasked with improving public understanding of the state’s forest resources and to encourage environmentally sound forest management. They have a host of programs that support schools around the state.
These are just a few of the unique organizations that get me fired up. It’s amazing how many resources are available with simple Google searches for your geographical area or topic of interest. I strongly encourage families to explore these resources and educate their own children on topics surrounding sustainability. Play Outdoors is hosting a Family Eco Challenge this month – Take the challenge and go 24-hour Plastics Free (no plastics for one whole day!), organize a local park cleanup, or plant a tree and get your family in the conservation mindset. You could win some great prizes while you’re at it!
Ben McKinley is a 33-year-old Oregon native and dad to a 2-1/2-year-old daughter. He runs a web development shop in Portland. Ben was exposed to the outdoors and sports at a young age—he grew up alpine ski racing at Mt. Ashland and played football through high school and college. As an adult, Ben has coached youth football, high school ski racing, and now a group of adult skiers for 14+ years. Ben enjoys skiing, alpine touring, mountaineering, kayaking, and cycling and considers outdoor exposure a high priority in his daughter’s life.