Plastic Free Weeks: How Two Vancouver Students Are Changing Behaviors at Their School

November 6, 2019

Natalie and Willa-Marie are two Vancouver students on a mission: to rid their K-7 school of single-use plastic! Their campaign focuses on policy (their school's rules) and demand (their fellow students' behavior).
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To address policy, Natalie and Willa-Marie first met with their principal, laid out the facts, and convinced her to help them make change. Their first major victory was their school agreeing to replace the plastic forks available at lunch with compostable wooden forks! They are continuing to work with their principal and school decision makers to make more switches away from SUPs.
Plastic Free Week first raffle
At the same time, to start changing behaviors at their school, Natalie and Willa-Marie decided to hold a week-long event with prizes up for grabs to encourage participation. Their first Plastic-Free Week took place in October to great success!
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Leading up to the week, they spread awareness through their school by presenting to classes and explaining how the week would work (as well as why not using plastic is so important!). Then, each day during the week itself, each student who did not bring any plastic to school that day could enter a raffle for eco-friendly prizes like water bottles (which themselves help reduce plastic footprint).
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By presenting to classes before the event itself, stretching the event over an entire week, and offering prizes to draw people in, Natalie and Willa-Marie were able to convince over HALF of their classmates to avoid plastic during the week and keep hundreds of SUP items out of the trash! They plan to repeat this successful event twice a semester while they continue working to change policy at their school.
Here are some tips and tricks that Natalie and Willa-Marie have learned so far:
  • Stay organized and make systems for a better functioning campaign.
  • If you are working in a team, make sure to value each other’s opinions and reach important conclusions together.
  • Plan for any outcome: have a strategy ready in case something goes wrong! For example, if your campaign includes an event and you want to have it outside, plan for rain and have a back-up location ready to go.