On December 4th and 5th, 2019, ten organizations that are actively advocating for the environment in Yangon visited ISY as part of the “Earth Day Spark” event. The idea behind this event was to connect ISY students and teachers with organizations that are fighting to protect the environment. The UN Sustainable Development Goals 4, 6, 7, 11, 12, and 13 were all addressed through the work each of these organizations is doing. The guest organizations included Thant Myanmar, Yoma Micro-Power, Mickey’s Real Wood Upcycled Furniture, Air Quality Yangon, Save the Children, World Wildlife Fund, Recyglo, Bokashi, Doh Eain, and Conyat Create.
Thant Myanmar is a nonprofit organization that debuted last year and is campaigning for and raising awareness around reducing plastic use. They have started with the focus of single-use plastics as it is a huge issue around the world and especially in Myanmar. The problem lies not only within plastic bottles, bags, and straws―which are the three main items Thant Myanmar targets―but the modern and newly accumulated lifestyle as well. For example, reusable lunch boxes have been replaced by plastic bags, harming not only one’s health but also the environment.
The organization’s campaign called “Need That Bag?” engages shop and restaurant owners to change their “plastic bag by default” practice. Thant Myanmar goes around local areas and markets to encourage shopkeepers to ask their customers if they really need a plastic bag with their purchase, in response to the careless attitude towards plastic use nowadays.
Thant Myanmar is also working alongside the tourism industry because restaurants and hotels in Yangon utilize significant amounts of plastic, examples being complimentary, single-use bottles and toiletries. They are also attempting to work with the government, but it remains difficult to fully engage them to implement long term changes and altering policies. As of now, Thant Myanmar continues its efforts in this, but they explained how “it is a long process.” They also train NGOs and CSOs to help them reduce their plastic use. Concerning education in Myanmar today, they are trying to start a curriculum in schools where children are taught topics like plastic, general waste, and climate change, to raise as much awareness as they can. “The progress and impact are difficult to measure as of now,” they stated, emphasizing how this is something they intend to look into and improve. On a positive note, according to Thant Myanmar’s volunteers, there are definitely some shops that ask their customers if they need a bag, which is a start for further change in the future.
They also mentioned about the potential activities that can be organized through the cooperation between the organization and ISY students: “For students, we want to have a good project that the students are interested in, or bringing a topic to awareness that students then carry out actions to tackle the issue, like changing behavior in daily life or other aspects relating to the environment the school wants to investigate. We would like to work with the service groups largely about waste, its management, and climate change, and its overall impact, by building a relationship with them.”
The World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children Myanmar are working together as a partnership in advocating for the environment in local schools. In Myanmar, especially in small schools and rural areas, there is a significantly low level of awareness on environmental issues, so these two organizations want to support these schools by establishing after school environmental action clubs.
Teaching materials have been created and WWF and Save the Children are now training facilitators to establish and support these action clubs at school. Special flipbooks for facilitators include pictures on one side to be presented to students and on the other side are instructions for what the facilitator should teach. The two types of flipbooks are labeled “Greener Environment”, which deals with the forest, wildlife, and climate change, and “Cleaner Environment” which deals with waste management and pollution.
The targeted student audience is from grades 3 to 7, and these weekly after school activities will teach the children about environmental issues and then encourage them to go into their community to identify which environmental issues they want to focus on and do something about. The two organizations will provide the children with the materials and tools necessary to take action.
“The whole idea is that we will empower the children to identify the problem and take action themselves,” says Sine Christensen, from Save the Children. “We want this education to pave the way in creating children and youth movements about the environment in Myanmar.”
Mickey’s Real Wood Upcycled Furniture utilizes used wood from shipping pallets, shipping crates, and damaged wood that ends up becoming waste or burned, to make new furniture. They define their work as “upcycling,” as they are converting simple materials, such as used wood, into products that are both artistic and practical.
The main concept Mickey, the founder of this organization, wants to present is saving the forests in Myanmar. A former mariner, Mickey observed a lot of trees being cut down and forests being burned, and this sparked the idea for establishing the business of upcycling furniture.
These pieces of furniture are sold at a higher price than normal furniture in the market, but this extra money goes into helping give back to the local community. “We intend to help underprivileged kids who have problems with their livelihood and education, so we teach these kids upcycling and woodworking and offer them jobs in our workshop. We also donate essential pieces of furniture such as benches and bookshelves to local schools nearby.”
Yoma Micro-Power builds solar power plants to provide electricity to various customers, currently consisting of telecommunications towers, villages nearby these towers, rural areas, and commercial industrial customers.
The first solar power plant they have installed is in Pun Hlaing estate, where the power is offered to telecom customers and the rest is offered to a nearby village. With the increasing demand for solar power, Yoma Micro-Power plans to install more solar power plants to meet these demands. As of today, 167 power plants are installed in upper Myanmar, and the organization is in progress of expanding this to lower Myanmar as well.
Air Quality Yangon is a student-driven organization from Connect University Yangon, who aims to raise awareness of the air quality around town and educating the public about air pollution and which behaviors they need to change in order to decrease this pollution.
The group started out by using Purple Air sensors that measure the number of dust particles present in the air before building their own affordable air sensor using Arduino programming. Purple Air sensors are installed around Yangon in some townships only and at the International School Myanmar’s campus. The Air Quality Yangon team is trying to spread awareness of the installations of these air sensors, as they require a host and are quite expensive. “We’re not marketing,” Air Quality Yangon said, “Yangon just doesn’t have enough data about air pollution.” Huge factors that go into this pollution include car exhaust and scent sticks on pagodas. Air quality is generally better when it rains, but the dry summer is ahead and further action needs to be taken to maintain a healthy air quality level in this city.
You can check out the data being collected by the existing sensors today on the Purple Air website. The students of Connect University have also created a Burmese website so that a greater amount of the population can understand and keep up with this data as well.
Air Quality Yangon did not make its first appearance at ISY at the Earth Day Spark event this week but visited earlier in November to the grade ten chemistry classes. They discussed with students how ISY could be a potential host of an air quality sensor in the very near future. The students are continuing on working together with this organization to get this installed and for ISY to have their own data on the surrounding air quality.
All organizations that came to and presented at the Earth Day Spark event are tackling a core concept: minimizing the utilization of natural resources. This event greatly aided students at ISY not only in learning about the dedicated work these organizations are doing and how they are helping Myanmar become a greener and more environmentally friendly nation, but also how the students themselves can make a difference too.
Published by Global