Students pitch in for Zero Waste Week 

‘If something isn’t completely broken, don’t throw it away.’

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Clothing designer Angela Sison offered multicolor threads, buttons, and slender needles from a flower pincushion to students at the West Tisbury School during their half-hour WIN (What I Need) period. She taught them how to sew buttons onto fabric, how to mend a tear, and how to sew a running stitch. The workshop was one of the many activities offered during the Island’s fourth annual Students for Zero Waste Week running through Friday across all Island schools. 

“I’ll teach you how to fix that,” Sison said to students Bella Levy and Sydney Emerson. 

Sison explained that mending our own clothes is one small way everyone can reduce their waste — which ties into this year’s Zero Waste theme: “Reuse and Refuse to Protect Our Climate.” “If something isn’t completely broken, don’t throw it away,” Sison said. 

Sison owns the clothing company Conrado — known for its sustainable fabrics upcycled from other factories. “There is so much waste in this industry,” Sison added. 

In addition to Sison’s WIN period workshop, this year’s Zero Waste Week featured field trips to the refuse district, beach cleanups, Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival environmental film screenings, zero-waste yoga with Jen DeLorenzo, Greta Thunberg speeches, waste-reduction songwriting, carbon footprint crash courses, and extended time outdoors “remembering why we’re doing this work in the first place,” said Samantha Look, education staffer at Vineyard Conservation Society. Zero Waste Week is supported by Island Grown Schools and the Vineyard Conservation Society, and all schools participate, including the West Tisbury School, Vineyard Montessori, Oak Bluffs, Chilmark, Edgartown, MVRHS, Tisbury, and Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. 

As part of an Island-wide eco challenge, each student was asked to think about a goal for every day of the week. For example, Monday was “reuse day,” so students were sure to use both sides of a piece of paper. Tuesday was “go outside day,” where students spent more time outdoors connecting with the environment. Wednesday was “refuse day,” so classrooms turned off all electronics for a half-hour. “Simple things that teachers and classes can do as a group,” Look said. The eco-challenge also extends outside the school community and into homes. “Simple things like riding a bike somewhere instead of taking a car,” Look suggested. “Having a neighborhood trash cleanup day. Little things kids can take home and do on their own.”

Zero Waste Week is meant to pause the community in time, allowing them to think about the simple, eco-minded initiatives they can begin to weave into their lives. 

“Schools are so busy. I’m so impressed with how intricate schedules are to manage time,” Look said. “This week carves out time to think as a community about steps we can make to be more environmentally friendly.” 

As a parent of young kids, Look said she worries about the way climate change is presented to children. “I think it’s really important when we talk about these issues, we also talk about solutions,” Look said. “This scattering of little pop-up ideas presented over the course of the week connects kids and adults with solutions … doing that one small thing is a gateway to doing more small things.”

Zero Waste Week stems from an annual NOAA program that typically runs in the spring. “That’s where this initiative began, and every year it evolves a little,” Look said.
“It’s bigger than ever this year,” said Moira Silva of Zero Waste Week. Silva is a West Tisbury parent, a Charter School elective teacher, and a Zero Waste Week coordinator. “The teachers and parents who have volunteered have been amazing collaborators,” Silva said. “The administration, too. It’s been a wholly volunteer effort, which is incredible.”

The overarching message: No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.