As a new member of the Sustainability Committee at Westtown School, I appreciate the conversations we share that have reminded me of simple ways we can all help our planet. It always amazes me how small changes in our everyday practices and behaviors can have such a positive impact on our environment. Below are a few reminders of the little steps we can all take.
Reduce Food Waste
Aim to waste less food in your home. Did you know your food waste is not only tough on your wallet but also has negative effects on the environment?
- Food waste in landfills contributes to the release of methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
- Americans waste a staggering 40% of our food (NDRC, 2017 ) which is 10 times more than our peers in Southeast Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa.
- How can you reduce food waste?
- Plan meals in advance.
- Serve smaller portions and use smaller plates.
- Review refrigerator contents weekly and watch for items that you consistently waste.
- Buy produce and perishable items in small quantities so they do not spoil before you use them.
We have touched on the importance of travel for
the young in previous posts. If you have been lucky enough to enjoy travel in your life, then you, too, might have experienced some of the benefits that come from leaving your comfort zone. This departure from the safety of what is “known” stimulates intellectual curiosity, brings knowledge, and allows for personal growth. Lili, a member of the class of 2015 at Westtown School, enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of Westtown en Cuba, a service and language immersion program for students, and has shared some knowledge she gained from the experience. Read on for an excerpt from her reflections on her trip to Cuba.
….and take a deep breath. That is my theme for this holiday season, and it was inspired by a conversation with a teacher at my children’s school about mindfulness. I know mindfulness is a “hot” topic these days, but after talking with my daughter’s teacher and participating in an adult mindfulness class, I am now a believer in this practice.
At Westtown, students begin learning and practicing mindfulness in the lower school. Shelagh Wilson, a first grade teacher at Westtown, who studies and practices mindfulness, describes it to her students as “ learning to pay attention on purpose.” She introduces her students to this practice with mindful listening (perhaps to a bird, a clock) and then leads them to mindful breathing and heartfulness.
As Shelagh explains to her first graders, there is a science behind this process. When we breathe we calm the amygdala (the part of our brain that controls our emotions). This calming allows the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that helps you plan and make decisions) and the hippocampus (the part of the brain that control your memory) to do their jobs. As adults, we know if we take emotion out of a situation, we will make better decisions. Think of the power of teaching our children to do this at an early age!