Earlier this year the Governing Council of Galapagos passed legislation (Ministerial Agreement No. 97) that requires schools in Galapagos to stop using single-use plastics, established with the intention to promote an eco-friendly culture and strengthening environmental awareness in the community.
Whilst this is a fantastic move in the right direction for tackling local sources of plastic pollution, it also presents a challenge for schools to replace single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives, such as the disposable plastic tubs (known locally as ‘tarinas’) used widely for school lunches. Since this legislation was passed, we have supported Conservation International (CI) and the Galapagos National Park (GNP) in delivering events where school directors can sign and formalise their commitment to eliminating single-use plastics. The first of these events took place in May on Santa Cruz and was attended by the Director of the GNP, Jorge Carrión, followed by one on San Cristobal and Isabela respectively in June.
Moreover, along with the first signing event, CI was able to pilot a sustainable alternatives fair for San Francisco school on Santa Cruz. With our support, the school was provided with 100 reusable cups and 100 reusable lunch dishes to help kick-start their transition from single-use plastics.
Students from the school were taught a new song with environmentally friendly messaging “Las 4R”, and met with a sea turtle mascot that was emblematic of a Galapagos species threatened by plastics.
The intention behind these activities was to help the children internalise what a privilege it is to live on the Islands, and that everyone must do their part to care for, protect and conserve Galapagos into the future.
Going forward, we plan to pilot four more sustainable alterative fairs in schools across the populated islands, eventually bringing the reusable tableware to all 24 schools in Galapagos. The ‘Iguana Cups’ are produced by our local partner Orcatec, who are currently running a successful community business-linked campaign against single-use plastics. An additional benefit of providing schools with Iguana Cups is the potential to reinforce the environmental messaging that students may have picked up on from the campaign signs in local businesses.
With a quick and proactive response to this new legislation, this project can enable a smooth phase out of single-use plastics in schools while supporting a significant reduction in local sources of plastic pollution.
This blog has been adapted from an article written for our 2019 Autumn Winter biannual members magazine, Galapagos Matters.