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September 2007 - Issue No. #66 (p. 18)
Language teachers, if enough of us express our opinions, are in a position to influence one section of the media which generates a lot of waste and pollution, the ESL/ EFL publishing companies.
At the end of each semester, I dispose of numerous plastic sample CD-ROMs and DVDs, plastic file folders, cheap plastic pens, calendars, as well as numerous textbooks and pamphlets that I have not opened. Most of the plastic gifts cannot be recycled in my community and will not biodegrade for who knows how many years. A majority of the textbooks do not relate to my classes; furthermore, most of them were not made with any recycled paper.
I recently wrote a letter to one ESL textbook publishing company in Japan, and I plan to write to others. In the letter, I wrote that I am very grateful for the generosity and kindness that the company showed to me through the gifts. However, I feel frustrated that so many of the gifts end up in the waste stream and that pollution was caused in their creation. My first priority is to find the best educational materials for my students, but when I am in a position of choosing between two suitable textbooks, I will choose the textbook that is sold by the most environmentally friendly publishing company. I further urged the company to used recycled paper, to avoid giving gifts made of plastic, and to initiate a plan to recover CD-ROMs and DVDs for recycling. One of the staff members of the company responded with a personal note thanking me for my comments, and he added that at the next general meeting he would express what I had written to his managers. One letter is not enough to effect change. However, if numerous language teachers write to express similar thoughts, the combined weight of our opinions will lead to positive change. The ESL/EFL marketplace is one section of the business world where we do have an impact.
One additional benefit to writing a letter is that your letter and the response can be used as examples for class writing assignments. Writing a letter to a newspaper or to a large company or to a government to express an opinion about a matter of concern is a writing activity that some language teachers assign to students. This assignment can give a sense of empowerment and accomplishment to students, especially in the case when students receive a reply or reaction. An example or your own letter makes the writing assignment more real to students.
Another option to writing letters is to speak directly to publishing company representatives when they visit your school or at a teaching conference that publishers attend, such as the upcoming JALT conference. No matter how you prefer to ex press yourself regarding environmental issues, I urge you to express yourself.
| Greg Goodmacher
Oita Prefectural College of Arts and Culture,
1-11 Uenogaoka-higashi, Oita-shi, Japan 870-0833
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