Interviewed by Cathy Horn
KHPB was recently contacted by Hyde Park resident Osasenaga Idahor, a high school student hoping to get feedback on the Conscious Waste Decision project he’s working on for school. A couple of us met with him at Coffee Break Cafe and we were so impressed by his ideas, commitment, enthusiasm, and confidence that we decided on the spot to interview him for this Humans of Hyde Park feature. Osasenaga is eager to move his project forward and is looking for partners in the community. If you have feedback, ideas, or assistance you would like to share with him, please email us or comment here.
1. Tell us about yourself and your connection to Hyde Park.
I have lived in Hyde Park near Cleary Square my entire life, and as I grow up, I continue to see myself connected to Hyde Park. Hyde Park is a special place for me because I feel more responsible as I grow up to give back to the small town in the city. I understand that I have an obligation to make my community a better place, for now, and for the future. Since my days in middle school, I always wanted to become someone whom others would respect for making a positive impact. I just did not know how, and I never realized that I could do so in Hyde Park, until now.
2. Tell us about the project you’re working on, and your goals for that project.
This past summer I visited Tokyo, Japan and I discovered that there were no public trash bins on the main streets, and yet there was not one piece of trash on any of the sidewalks or roads. In Tokyo, it is expected that anyone passing by on the street would hold on to their trash until they enter a building. When they enter the building, they could choose to recycle or throw it into the general trash bin. The discovery inspired me to begin thinking of how I could start changing people’s mindset about public waste receptacles here in Boston. I gathered my thoughts about how I could use existing trash bins to change the way people think before throwing away waste in these bins. Once I found out about Boston’s plans to be a zero-waste city by 2050, I knew how I could make my project’s ideas relevant to everyone living in Boston. Even when I told people in my school’s own environmental club about zero-waste Boston, no one knew that the initiative had been set in place. Thus, I decided to motivate people to consider the environmental consequences of throwing away their waste in public trash bins by increasing awareness about the zero-waste Boston initiative.
The only way we get to zero-waste by 2050 is if we all remember to think before we throw out our waste. There need to be more collaborative community-led projects to support our zero-waste plans as a city. The Conscious Waste Decision project is all about how together we can make Hyde Park and other neighborhoods in Boston model neighborhoods for the others by having this community-led project. The zero-waste plan is amazingly ambitious and it cannot be realized unless we help our city stay on track with its benchmarks. Most people know why they should recycle on a basic level, but it is important that we also keep in mind why it is directly relevant to us to want to recycle each time. It's not just about global consequences - there are more direct, local consequences as well for every decision we make about waste.
My goals for the Conscious Waste Decision project are to increase the amount of recycling in public trash bins while decreasing the amount of waste thrown into the landfill bins. Another goal is to increase public awareness about the relevant part everyone plays in making necessary steps for our city's zero-waste 2050 plans to become a reality. The project uses labels and signs visible on public trash bins to help achieve these goals. My vision for the project is a youth-led collaboration making these labels to demonstrate our capability as Boston residents in realizing our city's plans.
3. How did you get the idea for your project? What inspired you?
I am a member of my school's Youth Climate Action Network (YouthCAN). This past May, YouthCAN hosted its annual summit at MIT where the focus was Facing Waste. The focus really prepared my thinking for this project. This summer, I attended the Global Citizens Initiative Summit in Japan where I developed my project and established the idea of using labels to encourage awareness about the 2050 zero-waste Boston plans. I met with 27 other fellows from around the world and mentors who gave the advice to promote this plan of action. I gained more inspiration in my visit to the BlueCross BlueShield center in Boston. While there, I found out about how they label their trash bins 'landfill' bins. It inspired me to change people's perspectives on the trash we produce and to promote a more sustainable matter.
4. How do you think we can get more teens and kids interested and involved in keeping Hyde Park clean, green, and beautiful?
The easiest way to garner youth climate action and draw people into the cause is by creating a welcoming, judgment-free event where anyone, regardless of their knowledge about climate change, can discuss their concerns about it and think of potential sustainable responses. When people become aware of the imminent threat of climate change, only informing them of the terrifying threats posed by climate change and making them feel guilty about their unsustainable lifestyle decisions is a tactic that makes people shy away from doing any action. People are drawn into advocating for sustainable cities and communities when they are given hope to try to fix our predicament and a way to advocate. Impressing despair and guilt only encourages inaction and feelings of futility. Many teens are concerned about the effects of climate change, it is a matter of galvanizing them with hope to pursue active advocacy. In Hyde Park, there needs to be a revived climate action group for youth. Pushing forward Boson's zero-waste plans of 2050 requires a youth- involved team. The Conscious Waste Decision is a project led by the youth who will have inherited the city by 2050, and as the young inheritors, we have the greatest reason to support the initiative. Hyde Park teens can utilize gathering places, like the Menino YMCA teen center or the Municipal Building, even local bus stops as places to keep our city clean. The judgment-free environment and the collaboration will foster strong ideas and the willingness to follow through with the task of promoting a zero-waste Boston.
Nominate yourself or someone in the community for a Humans of Hyde Park story; nominees can remain anonymous in the story or use their first name only if they prefer: https://goo.gl/forms/qgTj1Rh8t2bSbh973
Quiana first came to Boston as a college student, graduating from Wellesley College in 2002 and returned in 2016 to live in Hyde Park with her husband and two children.