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09 February 2011

Storm in a Ziploc bag

As storms so often do, it began with some huffing and puffing of moist air and grew into a tempest of opposing forces.  A Quebec father blogged about his six year old son's experience of being banned from a contest at school because he brought lunch in a plastic Ziploc bag.  Within a few days it developed into an international debate on how to teach our children environmentally-friendly values and eco-fascism.

Many of us no doubt agree that penalising children for "environmental misdemeanours" is a negative learning experience -- but where does that differ from providing an incentive that they may miss out on?  In this case, I take issue with a young child being judged by the actions of his parents when he has so little control over the household budget and choices.  I liked the arguments that education is about providing children with the scientific facts and allowing them to form their own opinions.

The original blog post was written in French, but there has been plenty said in English!

Here is one interesting opinion from a blogger on news
On his blog, [the father] accused the school of "propaganda" and pondered what was next. Disciplining school children who wore clothes made in China?  Across the board from editors, to bloggers, to general public, the school in Laval is being lambasted and accused of "Eco-fascism."

Dare I say I commend them. Granted it's true that children don't pack their own lunches so there's a disconnect between the lesson and real life, but the idea that a 6-year old be against plastic bags can't be detrimental.

Perhaps in this case Felix didn't quite understand why plastic bags were bad. All he understood was that he couldn't win a teddy bear if his mother used one in his lunch. The better thing to do would have been to educate both the children and the parents so that they could pack lunches together and decide on the most eco-friendly choices.

Was this situation Eco-fascism? Hardly. The school was simply trying to teach a lesson - a little misguided perhaps but memorable nonetheless. I'm sure the boy is discouraged from using the bags in the future, which is what we should be aiming for in the end. There's no better way to teach proactive environmentalism than to the young, who have yet to form their plastic, gas-guzzling habits.
And, as quoted in a National Post news article,
Schools tread into dangerous territory when they start enforcing environmental messages without understanding the complex scientific arguments behind them, said Jane Shaw, president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina, and co-author of the book "Facts, Not Fear: Teaching Children about the Environment"... For instance, she said, the debate still rages over whether reusable dishes are really more environmentally friendly than disposable ones, taking into account the water and energy used to wash them.
"In the background to this is the idea that somehow we -- meaning teachers and textbook writers -- know what the environmental impact of something really is,” she said. “Studies have shown it’s very difficult to know whether it’s better to use a china cup or a disposable plastic cup.”  Instead, she said, schools should focus on teaching kids the fundamentals of science so that they can explore environmental issues themselves and draw their own informed conclusions as they get older.
“They’re getting a lot of pabulum about recycling and what is green and that kind of thing,” she said. “They’re not learning the basics of science, which in the long run is much more important.”

Inspired to make some eco-friendly choices when packing lunch?  See Biome's range of lunch boxes

We'd love your opinion either here on on our Facebook page.

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


JacqBrisbane said...

I use ziplocs, wash ziplocs, re-use ziplocs, etc...

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