Thanks to Iwastology, Filipino and Canadian high school students receive media training sessions that empower them to share ideas in highly visual and engaging manners. Spanning oceans and two distinct cultures, the exchanges have resulted in a shift in understandings of trash, waste and consumption. The student-run teams have organized monthly Skype video conferences to develop solutions that involve composting, recycling and other innovative reuse strategies that they will implement in their local communities. Alex Pritz, Christian Elliot and Arcie Mallari discuss their cross-cultural waste management curriculum and their hopes to eventually implement it on a global scale.
INHABITAT: Where does the term “Iwastology” come from and how did you come up with the concept for the project?
Alex: In Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines, Iwasto means “to fix” or “to make right” and wastology is defined as the study of waste. Together, the two terms come to describe a program that studies how to fix our waste crisis. Much like the name of the project, the concept came from a merging of ideas from the Philippines and North America. Last year Arcie Mallari was studying at McGill University as a Sauve Scholar, searching for ways to create a more dynamic and engaging way to teach marginalized students in the Philippines. Essentially, he was searching for a way to teach children about the world – society, politics, geology, really everything – through the study of what came out the other end –viz. what we throw away. I then brought the idea of film and multimedia into the equation, and together we came up with what it is today a cross-cultural waste management curriculum based on multimedia and the exploration of community practices.
INHABITAT: Could you briefly explain the project? How many students are involved? How has the project evolved? How did you guys meet each other?
Alex: There are currently 25 students in the Philippines and about 25 students here in Montreal, at St. George’s School of Montreal. Arcie and I met through a mutual friend, and as the idea grew we brought Christian onto the team as well. The idea really sprouted through a series of coffee-break conversations in which Arcie and I would describe the differences between waste management practices in two native countries. As the discussion evolved, we eventually ended up talking about how the technology from North America (vermicomposting, innovative recycling techniques) could help Filipino institutions. We also thought it was important to raise awareness of what waste looks like on a global scale. For example, some mountains of trash in the Philippines are so large that they have caused deadly avalanches onto nearby communities.
We wanted a way to take the excitement the two of us felt when sharing these perspectives and translate it into a curriculum we could use to educate high school students about the importance of waste management. That’s when we found St. George’s School and devised the once-a-month live Skype chat sessions in which students swap videos they’ve created about waste in their community and discuss strategies and techniques to combat this over-consumption.
Some of the more remarkable ideas that have emerged from this collaborative sharing of experiences are waste segregation and compost facilities that will provide fertilizer to a community garden, supplying vegetables to a local school in the Philippines, an awareness campaign about the dangers of over-consumption, value-added recycling programs which will take bottle caps and other discarded materials and turn them into marketable products, and a water filtration project to reduce waste water. The ideas are currently in the design stage and will eventually be implemented.