Eco Kepalas Programme in Collaboration with NEA South East Regional Office
Here are some reflections from the winning team.
The Eco Kepalas project on food waste was an eye-opener and a great opportunity for me to develop skills such as public speaking and doing research, and nurture values such as responsibility and taking ownership of our actions.
At first, when my I&E teacher in-charge told me that I would lead my peers in this project, I was surprised and hesitant. I also had great difficulty finding classmates and friends to join the project, but was eventually able to find five group members for this project.
Our group was given the topic of food waste on the consumer end. We had to create initiatives to encourage students and teachers in our school to stop or minimise food wastage.
I did not anticipate that this project would end up being so large in scale, and that I had to spend so much time working on it.
Fortunately, our group was able to develop initiatives such as an educational campaign comprising assembly talks, game booths, and sticker and tagline competitions. We were able to raise students’ awareness about food wastage and encourage them to minimise food wastage in their own lives.
We also had to come up with ways to measure food waste within out school community. After doing a comparison of data, we were extremely heartened to find out that our school community had definitely cut down on food waste, especially after our awareness campaign.
During the finals, we presented our project to a panel of judges, who gave us a mixed review – areas we had done well in, and areas we could better improve. All in all, it was a humbling and satisfying experience. Our team was pleasantly surprised when we won 1st place in the Environment Challenge for Schools (ECS).
Through this project, I have learnt the importance of effective communication. It is essential that all members maintain respect of one another even in the face of differences of opinion. Aside from sharing our perspectives, we have to listen to others’ views. We should be mature and do what is best for the team.
This project has also boosted my confidence in public speaking. Even though my presentation skills were far from perfect, I was glad that I could hold my own during the assembly talk to the Secondary 4 cohort.
In addition, I have learnt to be more responsible and accountable for my own actions. Admittedly, there were times when I was irresponsible and tried to push the responsibility to other group mates. I was also supposed to be the official leader, but with many of my group mates being counsellors or monitors, I did not really show leadership initially. However, as I observed them, I became more aware of the expectations of a leader. In my own ways, I started to take charge and took more initiative.
Our group has also learnt to take responsibility and ownership for our own actions as some of the decisions we made had repercussions on others. Furthermore, this project allowed me to understand better what food wastage is all about and better appreciate the food we have. I now know the impact that food wastage brings upon people such as farmers and how it can impact the environment.
I can gladly say that everyone in the group has definitely become conscious of the effects their actions have on the efficient and effective distribution of food in the community.
This project has shown me the true impact of food waste and why it should definitely be reduced. I have learnt much through this journey of research and discovery.
In the beginning, I was frequently sick and could not attend most of the meetings. It was regrettable, and when I got better, I gave my fullest for the rest of the meetings.
Initially, we had some conflicts as our ideas clashed. We did not really accept each other's opinions. We found it difficult to resolve differences of personality. Those moments were the toughest for me but we managed to resolve our conflicts eventually through communicating our concerns tactfully. When we started to listen to one another, we realised we were able to work more productively as a team. There was a particular incident when our leader came up with a PowerPoint presentation. However, most of us disagreed with the proposal and decided to change majority of the slides. Our leader took our opinions positively and I felt that it was commendable and also essential to be able to take criticisms constructively for the betterment of the project.
This project has taught me the impact of food waste and how it affects the world. I have also learnt small ways that individuals can carry out to prevent food waste. I have also developed the habit of reminding my friends not to waste food. I am glad to see my friends being more conscious of their eating habits as it is these little changes which have the greatest potential to minimise food wastage effectively.
Eco Kepalas was a project that started out with a simple concept with several volunteers working on it. Now, we have a vast variety of educational prototypes that have been refined numerous time with new feedback from teachers and our collaboration partner, Sodexo.
Initially, it was difficult to even come up with one prototype as we were completely inexperienced. However, aside from attending a workshop, we also gained invaluable insights from our partner, Mr Rosh, and our mentor, Mrs Wong. We thought of several ways to conduct our campaign, and started innovating and improvising with some ideas that we had brainstormed to make our educational prototypes more refined and interesting. Soon, we managed to come up with many different ideas that would officially be part of our campaign in reducing food waste!
Our awareness campaign consisted of many different outreach approaches such as assembly talks in school, game booths held during and after curriculum hours, a Sticker and Tagline Competition, as well as a sharing with the Green Club from Yangzheng Primary School.
The project was definitely enriching and enlightening, and I gained a wealth of knowledge with regard to food waste.
Our group had to come up with a PowerPoint presentation for the finals and we were thankful that our various teacher-mentors guided us through the creation of our slides and even for our verbal presentation. It was definitely a humbling experience.
Most importantly, I have learnt the importance of reducing food waste. It is essential that we keep food waste to its minimum to prevent greater global impact.
Although this journey is relatively smooth-sailing, there were some challenges we faced. For example, due to our amateur handling of the food waste, there was an instance when we found maggots lying in our food waste collection bins. That moment got us all to reflect on how we could avoid such incidents again.
Regardless of how rocky or smooth-sailing the project journey was, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hope to continue spreading awareness on food waste and remind students not to waste their food.
When we embarked on our project, we faced some setbacks.
Firstly, at the food waste collection stage, non-food items were also thrown into the food-waste collection bin. As such, we had to spend time to remove the non-food items in order measure the food waste more accurately. While we were tabulating our survey results, we had to re-calculate our data as some responses were doubly filled in by the students.
To overcome some of these setbacks, we made announcements during our presentation talks to the school to remind the students to only throw away food waste and no other non-food items into the bins provided. Noticeably, there was a significant decrease in the amount of non-food items collected. We also had to re-conduct some surveys for a more accurate representation of the students’ voice.
Through this project, we learnt that with better communication, co-operation and teamwork, conflicts and misunderstanding can be reduced and prevented. Initially, we were not really concerned about food wastage. However, as we began our research on this topic, we began to realise how severe this problem actually was. In addition, during the project, we were given several opportunities to address this topic during assembly talks. We have definitely become more confident in our public speaking skills after these chances to speak on stage to a large audience. Throughout this journey, we have also learnt to think more creatively and respect one another’s opinions.
We hope to raise awareness about the need to reduce the amount of food waste. Through our outreach effort to Yangzheng Primary School, we hope that we can spread our words and actions to a wider audience, beyond the school context.
When we first embarked on this project, we had to plan our personal timeline to ensure that we remained on task when we carried out our project. We first created a questionnaire on food waste for the canteen vendors before interviewing them. We then provided them with buckets to contain the unpurchased food that they were unable to sell to the students. We did daily measurements after school and weighed the amount of food not sold.
It was very heartening that our school vendors had taken their own initiatives to give away the leftover food to the needy and their family members. As such, no food was wasted upon sales. However, one of our judges at the Final Presentation told us that our data could have been better captured if we got the canteen vendors to measure the amount of food waste during the food preparation stage. This was definitely something we had not considered and it was a humbling experience to learn the ways in which we could improve our project.
As a group, we have learnt that it is extremely essential to manage our time and not procrastinate. We had some difficulties completing some of our assigned tasks due to our conflicting schedules and poor time management. We are very thankful that our teacher-mentor, Mdm Zhang Yan, has continuously reminded and guided us to complete our project.
Through this project, we hope to share with our canteen vendors on how they can minimise food waste during both the preparation and sales process. Apart from that, the canteen vendors could also monitor consumers’ food preferences so that they could avoid wasting food during the sales of food.