Pick any item – a shirt or shoes, sports equipment, bicycle, cell phone, or any of the many products we use daily. Where did the raw materials come from? Were the people and their families who grew, mined, assembled and transported each item allowed to enjoy benefits from their labors without risk of harming their health and the environment? What actually happens to each component and its packaging? Are they soon discarded and sent to landfills? Or recycled?
We’ve become accustomed to the “purchase – use – discard” cycle without assessing the hidden costs and considering alternatives.
Words Into Deeds partnered with Finger Lakes ReUse on several projects designed to help area youth, grades PreK-20, develop greater awareness of the immediate and hidden costs, both financially and environmentally, of repeating this cycle. As a framework, they focused on Sustainable Development Goal #12 to address this complex issue.
IN STORE PROGRAMS
On-site explorations of ReUse stores were preceded by workshops introducing the SDGs and concepts of sustainability. For example, participants in the Cornell Science and Technology Entry Program were asked to select a product and follow it from its origins to assembly to packaging and transporting, finally arriving at a local store. These researches often produced surprises, revealing hidden costs to people and the environment.
URBAN 4-H PROGRAMS
The Ithaca Urban 4-H, under the direction of Ramona Cornell, offers after-school and summer programs. As part of two summer programs, younger children visited ReUse stores and selected items that they then modeled at a gala fashion show for their peers, parents and community members. Each model was introduced by one of the older students who shared brief “biographies” of the garments, shoes, jewelry or other items the models were wearing or carrying.
As a backdrop, the group made a wall hanging depicting their take-away images from the project.
PROJECT AT ITHACA MONTESSORI SCHOOL
Teachers at the E. A. Clune Ithaca Montessori School invited Words Into Deeds to help expand their curriculum to incorporate the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and include the SDGs as a rubric for designing student projects. As example, students in one class played an interactive word game using ideas taken from both the UDHR and SDGs.