Accompanied by Helen Cass on Saturday 3 October, several of our Environmental Committee students took part in one of the 12 lake clean-ups that the Association pour la sauvegarde du Léman organises every year. This association hopes to raise awareness about the amount of "invisible" waste at the bottom of the lake, and show everyone that we can work together to preserve the environment around us. It also thoroughly researches the dredged up waste, 90% of which is the result of human activity and not biodegradable. This severely pollutes the aquatic ecosystem, and impacts all living organisms in the lake.
What is Net’Léman?
About 1000 volunteers of all ages and 300 divers took part in this event last weekend by helping to collect and sort the rubbish found in the lake. People walked, paddle boarded and scuba dived, all with one common goal: to preserve the beauty of Lake Geneva, the largest Alpine lake in Western Europe. We happily attended and helped with the clean-up in Ouchy, Lausanne with 100 other volunteers.
What did we do?
After waking up around 9:00, our Environmental Committee members carpooled or took the train to the site with our reusable face masks. There were tents lined up, very organized and practical, where we easily found our place and signed up. Some of us borrowed gloves from the organization and we were all given vests so that we were uniformed and easily visible to each other. We agreed as a committee to stay together and each individual got assigned a different type of waste to collect in their bags. Walking our way around the lake, we worked collaboratively and slowly filled up each other's bin bags. We soon realized that the majority of the waste was caught between the rocks bordering the lake. We proceeded to find and retrieve plastic bottles, bits of styrofoam, metal scraps and general waste. After about 2 hours, we reached the end of Ouchy and made our way back to the meeting point. All of the rubbish found was dumped onto a big plastic sheet, and was later sorted into specific piles.
How did we feel?
Even through all the rain and sweat, we can confidently say that it was a very fulfilling experience. Being able to contribute to our environment and be a part of such a great community not only helped broaden our Environmental Committee's horizons, but also taught us a lot about the waste we create and how it impacts our environment even when we cannot see it. We were pleasantly surprised that we did not find a surplus of waste in common areas. However, we were disappointed by the amount of waste we found in hidden crannies and places that were difficult to access, such as the rocky areas that line the lake.
In addition to this, the quantity of cigarette waste we found in common areas such as paths, grassy areas and around the trees was shocking. The organisation found about 5000 cigarette butts just along this small section of the lake in Ouchy.
We were able to gain a number of ideas for our committee, including a clean-up in our own school community, and we all felt that this event was an amazing experience. We are happy to say that we hope to participate in Net'Leman events again in the future with an even larger group, to make an even larger difference.
Carole, Mia and Anna