Many people have probably been horrified by photos on social media of turtles with plastic straws up their nostrils or wildlife covered in oil or tangled up in plastic. But what attitudes are we taking individually and collectively as a society to help save wildlife and the environment? Below are some activities you can use in class to get your students discussing sustainable actions, and hopefully making positive changes in the future to help save the planet.

ACTIVITY 1

LEVEL B1 onwards

  • Give each student the following “Find someone who..” sheet. Ask everyone to stand up. They should ask the questions on the worksheet to different people in the class. When they find someone who has done one of the sustainable actions, they should tick the box. They should continue asking their classmates until all the boxes are ticked. NB: The students should form questions, e.g. “Do you use supermarket plastic bags or do you take your own bag when shopping for food?”

FIND SOMEONE WHO…


TICK
does not use supermarket plastic bags and takes his/her own reusable bag to shop for food.
does not use plastic straws in restaurants/cafes/bars.
turns off the tap when he/she is brushing his/her teeth.
carries his/her own mug and refuses to use plastic cups in schools/work places.
separates his/her recyclable rubbish at home.
has one shower that lasts maximum 3 mins per day.
  • After the students have finished the activity, ask them to sit in groups of three and discuss the following questions choosing what they think the correct option is.
  1. On average, how many plastic bags are used in the world per year?
    a) 5 million
    b) 5 trillion
    c) 500 billion
  2. What is the average usage life of a plastic bag?
    a) 3 hours
    b) 12 minutes
    c) 10 days
  3. On average, how long does it take one plastic bottle to degrade?
    a) 450 years
    b) 5 years
    c) 250 years
  4. In which country can you risk imprisonment or a fine of up to $40,000 for producing or selling plastic bags?
    a) The United Kingdom
    b) Germany
    c) Kenya
  5. On average, how many seabirds are killed worldwide every year due to plastic?
    a) Just over 1 million
    b) Just over 1 thousand
    c) Just over 5 thousand

Source: http://www.oceanwatch.org.au/ and https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/plastic-pollution-facts/

  • Give the students the answers (below) and ask them to discuss what surprised them and if they would change their attitude in the future concerning using plastic.

Answers

  1. b) 5 trillion
  2. b) 12 mins
  3. a) 450 years
  4. c) Kenya
  5. a) Just over 1 million

ACTIVITY 2

LEVEL: B2 onwards

  • Divide the students into pairs. Ask one student to read text A and the other to read Text B. The texts are about true stories of sustainable actions that people took and, as a consequence, changed their community.
TEXT A LUNCHBOX CHALLENGE Inspired by the BBC documentary Blue Planet narrated by David Attenborough, school children at Barry Island primary school, UK decided to reduce the amount of plastic they use at school. They came up with the idea of asking all the pupils and staff to bring in less packaging in their packed lunch and called it “The Lunchbox Challenge”. Some actions they took were to take a reusable water bottle, a reusable tupperware to put sandwiches and fruit (in separate compartments) and reduce the amount of packaging in general. Before they introduced the lunchbox challenge, they had 303 pieces of plastic. After the challenge, they managed to reduce this amount to 187 pieces of plastic.
Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06bt596
TEXT B Zero waste restaurant The first restaurant to receive a zero waste certificate from the Instituto Lixo Zero in Brazil is located in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina. Among some of the sustainable actions they have taken are: using cutlery made out of sugarcane bagasse, serving juice in reusable jam jars and not using plastic at all. They even use sponges in the kitchen made out of fishing net so as not to use disposal ones. The three partners of the restaurant have also engaged their neighbours by asking them to put their organic waste into bottles and dispose of it on a compost heap. In the future, they plan to designate an area of their restaurant for homemade cosmetics.
Source: https://www.revistaversar.com.br/restaurante-de-santa-catarina-e-o-primeiro-do-brasil-a-receber-o-certificado-lixo-zero/?fbclid=IwAR14DYdeT19jE4iLc78kq9ccpHkQwY5Jf_kkhrDTP1-x-2WVaL3BfUbn_MQ
  • After the students have read their texts, ask them to tell each other about what they read.
  • Now ask each pair to join another pair and discuss the following together.
  1. Do you think you could do something similar to what the people did in these stories in your community?
  2. What other sustainable actions could you take to inspire people in your community to help save the environment?
  3. Do you know of any other inspiring stories of people who want to help save the planet?

ACTIVITY 3

LEVEL B1 onwards

  • Ask each student to read the fictitious story below called “Loop”. After they have read the story, in pairs the students should retell the story by using the following prompts: Summer’s day – food truck – straw – wind – chicken farm – sacks – birds – slaughterhouse – sandwich.
  • In the same pairs, students should discuss what sustainable actions they have already taken. E.g. not using supermarket plastic bags, not using plastic cups/straws, not throwing litter on the ground, using less water, etc. They could also discuss what actions they could take in the future.

LOOP by Jane Godwin Coury

On a hot summer’s day, the eight-year old girl finished her lemonade. Her mum had bought it for her from a food truck at the local park. As her mother had taught her some time ago, Rachel threw her plastic cup and straw into the dustbin next to the vehicle. Unfortunately, though, Rachel didn’t notice that the straw had fallen onto the ground. They went home.
The lightweight straw rolled across the park. With a bit of help from a gust of wind, it was blown onto a pick-up truck and headed out of town. After 30 minutes, the truck driver stopped at a chicken farm. He opened the back of the truck and carried some big sacks of corn into the production house to feed the birds. The straw was stuck to one of the sacks.
The chicken feed (and the straw) were distributed to 5,000 broilers. Mechanically the chickens pecked at the food, soon to be slaughtered and sold in local supermarkets. One of the hens swallowed the straw as if it were a long piece of spaghetti. Soon after, all the birds were sent to the slaughterhouse and, later on, headed into town in the form of breasts, thighs and legs packed up in polystyrene and plastic packaging.
On a cool autumn day, Rachel and her mum ordered a nice chicken sandwich to share from the food truck at the local park.

Drawing by Daniel Torreão Corrêa Thiemann