Vaiusu celebrates the “Green” way

By Vatapuia Maiava For Conservation International 03 January 2019, 12:00AM

What better way to kick off the festive season, and to say farewell to 2018, than with a big village community clean up!

That was the mindset last week as the urban village of Vaiusu conducted a clean-up, which involved the clearing of all plastics and non-biodegradable litter in the area – leaving their surroundings looking spotless and appealing as they prepare to welcome the New Year.

The clean up, which was organized by the village community with the assistance of ProGreen Samoa, was attended by hordes of community members, ProGreen Samoa members, and a Conservation International Samoa representative.

“It’s great to see villages like Vaiusu taking initiative and organizing community cleans ups,” says Leanne Moananu, from ProGreen (a youth run non government organization focused on environment conservation work).

“We at ProGreen, through the activities we carry out, hope to challenge and motivate people to take initiative within their own communities to help maintain a clean and green environment for all, and we are delighted to hear that Vaiusu had taken up this challenge.

“I believe the cleanup also opened up more eyes to the issues of plastic pollution in villages and our country as a whole. Majority of the rubbish we cleaned up were single-use plastic bottles, food packages, cups etc. It’s one of our goals to work with others to encourage people to say no to single-use plastics and explore reusable alternative in order to combat this problem.

“We hope that this event will motivate other communities to do the same.”

Ms. Moananu also added that the event was a great success with the community showing much interest in making this an ongoing village activity.

According to one of the clean-up event organizers, who is also a Vaiusu community member, Antonia Mavaega Mala, the idea came about when she saw one of ProGreen’s Facebook posts showing a recent clean-up event.

She explained that when she saw the post, she commented saying that this would be good for their village to do considering all the rubbish lying on the side of the village road.

With the Vaiusu village divided into four sub-groups which are named after the four gospels – Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John – Antonia added that organizing the clean-up wasn’t too hard seeing that her sub-group, Luke, was already gathered together for various church events.

And at the end of the day, the clean-up became a great success with the village left a little bit cleaner and greener than before.

“The turnout was amazing, especially with the little kids also pitching in to help out. We thought that since it’s our first clean-up, we will start small but it turned out great,” Antonia shared.

“If we teach our children young and make them aware of the effects of plastic pollution, while also teach them to do their part by picking up plastic litter, then it will gradually become a good lasting habit for them.

“Change can start with something small. If we all start off by keeping our own backyards clean then it will be easier for us to make the transition into cleaning up our communities as a whole and then gradually expanding even more.”

Antonia urgesSamoa to get behind the Governments move to ban single-use plastics and support it so that further down the line, Samoa will become less reliant on plastics.

“Right now it (plastics) seems like a necessity but we don’t think about how this is affecting our environment,” she said.

“We have become too accustomed to going to the store where we are handed plastic bags only for it to be thrown out when we get home. We can do better than that.”

Community members present at the clean-up were also given 50 tote reusable shopping bags by the ProGreen team at the end of the event. The bags were donated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and were given to help encourage community members to say no to plastic bags next time they go to the store. 

And with Samoa officially banning single-use plastic bags and plastic straws next month (January, 2019), exploring some great alternatives – such a as the various reusable shopping bags available at stores, bamboo straws, papaya stem straws, reusable steal straws, and/or even paper straws (as opposed to plastic ones) – will go a long way towards Samoa’s plastic-free goal.

“It’s super important we start limiting our plastic consumption and mainstreaming the use of alternatives,” says Schannel van Dijken, Program Director from Conservation International Samoa.

“It’s also very encouraging to see communities and organizations working together on cleanups and raising awareness about waste. It’s a step in the right direction towards changing our behaviors. At the end of the day, we really want to be doing less clean ups, which is like taking waste and rubbish from one site and transporting it to another (usually the rubbish tip). The key is to move our behavior and to be thinking and living by the 5 Rs around waste – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Return (Tete’e, Fa’aitiitia,Toe Fa’aaoga ma Toe Fa’afo’i).” 

Refuse: Show that you are not willing to do something (e.g. refuse a single use plastic bag).

Reduce: Use fewer materials or make waste material smaller.

Reuse: Use materials more than once.

Recycle: Change or adapt the material for a new use.

Return: Some organic materials could be returned to nature in form of compost; bottles can be returned to be refilled.

This is something we all need work together to mainstream in our everyday lives as we welcome the New Year. 

So, just like Vaiusu Village, let’s all do our part in keeping our island paradise clean as we venture into a more clean and green 2019 together. 

Conservation International Samoa together with all our partners and the ProGreen team would also like to wish Samoa a happy, green and prosperous New Year.

By Vatapuia Maiava For Conservation International 03 January 2019, 12:00AM

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