ASEAN Student Exchange
The "Leading Green" Exchange program, funded by the U.S. State Department, is organized by the East-West Center as a cultural exchange program between the U.S. and Southeast Asian countries and is focusing on environmental leadership and teaching students about green schools and sustainable communities. The students were selected by the U.S. Embassy in their respective countries to visit the U.S. to share and explore ideas about sustainability.
Eugene Tan from Singapore, for example, was selected among 60 students at his school to participate in the program. When he arrived in Berkeley, he was surprised by the many environmental organizations. "Everyone in Berkeley is much more aware of the environment than in Singapore," he explains. His peers had similar reactions. They were all surprised by the recycling programs at their host schools and the involvement of Green Teams at the schools.
In contrast to Berkeley, Asyraf from Brunei is disappointed by the lack of environmental awareness in his country. He explained that in his country - a country that is a large oil-exporter - it is common for families to have three or four cars. He continued to explain that gas is extremely cheap. Because gas is an astounding seven cents per gallon, people don't look to more sustainable modes of transportation. "The pollution is extremely bad," remarked Asyraf.
Singapore, on the other hand, is the opposite in terms of the number of cars. This is because in Singapore - a small island country - in order to buy a car, you must buy a certificate of entitlement, which costs more than a car. "They implemented this to reduce pollution and decrease the amount of cars because Singapore is a small country." Eugene, like most people in his country, mainly relies on the train and bus to get around.
Touring the Brower Center made the students realize that sustainability can be achieved through resourcefulness. The students unanimously admired that the building is made from so many materials with recycled content. Winona from Malaysia was especially impressed by the theater made of bamboo. Bamboo is a plentiful resource in Malaysia. Following the tour, the students learned what they can do to 'green' their schools through Deborah Moore's presentation. "On a large scale, Singapore has addressed the car pollution issue," said Eugene, "but on a smaller scale, I want to implement a recycling and composting program and plant trees at schools."
Since returning home, students are working to implement projects based on what they learned on their Exchange program. Eugene is planning to organize a "recycled art" contest among Singapore elementary schools to raise awareness about waste and recycling.
Due to the high level of pollution in Brunei, Asyraf wants to promote carpooling and sustainable transportation.
Winona wants to start a garden at her school. Her main concern, though, was student participation. She explained that the environment is not a priority for most students and they only sometimes recycle and compost. To tackle this issue, Winona wants to raise awareness throughout campus by getting involved in the school's Earth Team.
The Brower Center Tour and Green Schools Initiative provided these students with plenty of ideas to implement at their schools back home. Each with different visions for their schools, the ASEAN students are excited to share their experiences and ideas! We were thrilled to host them and look forward to hearing about their successes!