Roong Aroon School Is a community that values the importance of natural environment and habitats. They integrate these factors into their ‘way of life’ and ‘way of the community’; starting from ‘conscious usage’ of resources by the students, parents, guardians, as well as staffs and all the stakeholders. Adhering to Buddhist principles and combining them with proper planning and resource management ideas, a sustainable and holistic system was then derived in order to establish Roong Aroon as a ‘Zero Waste’ community. The benefits and values of this system is concrete and can easily be seen by everyone involved.
Making ‘big’ things into ‘small’ things through management
Roong Aroon’s classrooms are situated in a lush green forest area that is inhabited by large trees and plants. On one hand, it acts as an ‘outside classroom’ for the students to learn about nature and the ecosystem. On another hand, the twigs and dried up tree branches can also be used for cooking in the kitchen.
The big swamp in the middle of the school was designed and dug not only for the sole purpose of its natural beauty. It also acts as a pit that can help the school and the surrounding area accommodate heavy rainfall during the monsoon months. On another hand, the dug up mud and soil was also utilised to make water dam within the school area.
Food wastes from the school kitchen, food halls and weekly market stalls are utilised as animal feeds while left over vegetables and fruits are converted into organic compost and bilogical liquid fertilisers that are then used on the organic vegetables and trees being grown in the school.
Used water from the school is treated in a closed water treatment system (designed by the secondary students of the school) before being used to water the plants in the school, after which it is allowed to go into the public sewage system.
Waste Sorting Centre; part of the ‘Zero Waste’ program at Roong Aroon School. This initiative challenged the contemporary point of views of the stakeholders when it came to “throwing away” or “discarding” things. This encouraged them to identify ‘resources’ from ‘wastes’ and helped them turn ‘wastes’ into ‘resources’.
‘Waste-free’ classrooms from kindergarten to secondary school, is another evidence of the power of the ‘little people’ (students of all grades) in being involved with sustainability and holistic resources management system.
Repair and Building Station: broken items are either fixed or created into new items, whether they are tables, chairs, household and used items. Trees and wood parts from the forest are also utilised to their optimum value and potential.
Every factors in the resource management mechanism are holistically linked and act as a ‘support’ for one another.
“Zero Waste” Project
Before the sustainable waste management system came into existence at Roong Aroon, the school faced huge issues with the amount of daily wastes which averaged about 206 kilograms (February, 2004). This was mainly down to the reason that the wastes were not sorted before being discarded.
Hence, this was used as an opportunity and a ‘pre-condition’ to enable everyone in the Roong Aroon community to learn about resource and environmental conservation.
In its quest to reduce the overwhelming volume of wastes in the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, the project managed to establish a community that can manage its own wastes and discarded items through appropriate and environmentally- friendly means. The core element here is the involvement by all the stakeholders (parents, students, teachers, personnel and staffs etc.). Their underlying beliefs in conserving the environment meant that they adapted themselves to a lifestyle of “not creating wastes” and gradually decreasing the amount of wastes that they discard into the public bins/landfills.
In order to move toards the goal of “Zero Wastes” in a concrete manner, the school utilised ‘Buddhist’ principles in analysing and planning the project as well as overhauling peoples’ point of views that “wastes” are “dirty” and “disgusting”
1st step: separating ‘resources’ from ‘wastes’
Analysing problems and creating supporting infrastructure systems, the school began requesting for volunteers to separate three types of ‘resources’ from ‘wastes’ (ie; non-composable wastes, septic wastes and contaminated watses) that are discarded to the public waste collection department. The ‘resources’ were
- food wastes that are utilised as animal feeds
- easily composable wastes that are utilised as organic fertiliser
- recycleable goods that are sold off to be used again
2nd Step: turning ‘wastes’ into ‘resources’
this is the stage at which the program is integrated into the syllabus or course of learning in each class/level. An ‘Environmental Station’ was created where practical/outdoor learning can take place. This then gave rise to ‘Waste Sorting Station’, ‘Liquid Organic Compost Station’ and ‘Liquid Microorganism Station’. The products made within these stations were then used in the school’s ‘organic vegetables’ patch. The students also had to be very creative in turning compose-resistant wastes into something useful (such as turning old milk cartons into green board).
Step 3: changing behaviour to reduce wastes
this was a period of campaignng towards ‘reducing, letting go of and stopping’ consumption patterns which create “wastes” that cannot be reused. This involved campaigning shops to stop using plastic bottles, cups, bags as well as polystyrene food containers for foods and drinks. Buyers and sellers were also encouraged to switch to containers that could be cleaned and then reused again such as stanless steel food carrier, baskets, cloth bags etc. Hence, moving as close as possible towards the target of “Zero Wastes”.