What in The World Could Learning Spanish Have in Common with a Waste Audit?


La contaminación

La contaminación y nuestra tierra (pollution and our earth)

You want to learn Spanish you say? But you have too many other interests to juggle? Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to learn Spanish (or any other foreign language) in the context of some of your other passions? People go about living their lives no matter where they reside. So why not go about living your life and learn some Spanish along the way.  That’s how I discovered what learning Spanish had in common with a waste audit!

One of my passions is learning how to create less trash to help to preserve the environment, and to foster environmental awareness. Not too long ago, I was involved in a local zero waste group.  So, to garner the support of my family in my attempt to live zero waste, my son and I conducted a waste audit of our family’s trash.  In order to live zero waste, you need to have zero trash, right?  It’s kind of embarrassing to show our garbage in public, but it was a great reality check for us, maybe it will be for you too..  I’m game for sharing!

So let’s see how we can combine a waste audit (una revision de la basura) with learning Spanish! Don’t forget your dictionaries! It’s also great practice to speak as much Spanish as you can while you conduct your waste audit!

Nuestra basura sobre una lona.

Nuestra basura sobre una lona. (Our garbage on a tarp). Four bags for the week. (Cuatro bolsas para la semana).

¡Empecemos! Let’s Begin — Your Waste Audit in Spanish!

First, spread out a large tarp (una lona) or a big plastic sheet (un plástico grande) on the ground (en el suelo).  And bring your dictionary.  I just learned a new word with ‘tarp’ which I had to look up. Do you have several children learning with you?  Have someone jot down the words in Spanish that you are learning.  Have others be the ones to look up new words too!

Next, bring out the trash (basura) to your site. Ideally, you don’t want to tell anyone what you are about to do so that during a week’s time, people throw out trash as they normally would.  Since we had been trying to reduce our garbage for a few months previously, and we already composted fruit and vegetable scraps, I thought we did pretty well with only four bags of trash for a family of five.  But we can do better!

Ok, so when you have your garbage on the tarp, open (abran) the trash bags and spread (extiendan) the basura on the lona.  Did you bring your guantes? (gloves).  Might be a good idea because the next step is to separate (separar) la basura in categorías (categories). Yuk.

Las categorías de nuestra basura.

Las categorías de nuestra basura. (The categories for our garbage)

Las categorías

The categorías that you choose will depend on your basura.  ¿Cuáles son tus categorías? (What are your categories?) We chose (escogimos):

*dog poop (la caca de perro). Our picture only shows a couple bags, but we must have had more because we gave it a high percentage of the total of our basura..

*non-compostable food (alimentos no compostables) – meat bones (huesos de carne), meat, other non fruit or vegetable food waste (desechos de alimentos ni vegetales ni de fruta).

*non-recyclable (no reciclables) – fruit and vegetable plastic bags (bolsas de plástico para frutas y vegetales), candy wrappers (los papelitos de dulces) — we did this soon after halloween, styrofoam meat containers (bandejas de poliestireno para la carne), tin foil (aluminio), deli meat plastic bags (bolsas de plástico para las carnes frías),  food-contaminated plastic bags (bolsas de plástico contaminadas con comida), plastic bags from inside cereal boxes (bolsas de plástico de las cajas de cereales), frozen vegetable plastic bags (bolsas de plástico para vegetales conjelados), cheese plastic bags (bolsas de plástico para los quesos),  frozen fruit bags (bolsas de plástico para frutas congeladas).  As you can see, we need to cut down on our use of plastic! ¡Necesitamos bajar nuestro uso de plástico!

*mistakes (errores) – items that were thrown out (tirados) that could be recycled (reciclados) or composted (convertidos en abono).

Las matemáticas

We then estimated (estimamos) the percentages (porcentages) of each category and placed them in an Excel sheet (una hoja de Excel). Here is a pie chart (un gráfico circular) of our basura categorizada (categorized garbage).

Gráfico circular de nuestra basura

Un gráfico circular de nuestra basura. (Pie Chart of our garbage)

So, what’s next? Are there solutions (soluciónes) to reduce (disminuir)  your basura? Brainstorm!  and look up (busquen) new words (palabras) in the dictionary if you need to.

Las soluciónes

We chose to work on a couple things. The first one was to learn how to compost dog poop. Another was to eat less meat (comer menos carne), which we are doing now.  (The amount of pollution that mass production of animals for meat consumption creates is another blog altogether!) The last solution we thought of was to try to purchase items with less plastic.  Fruit and vegetables bought at Aldi’s (where we shop), for example, are all sold in unrecyclable plastic.  A trip to the farmers market (el mercado) would solve that, although prices are much higher at a farmer’s market, so we will have to pick and choose. We also did our research on prices too.  So, stay tuned for how to do this in Spanish in another blog.

Teach Others! ¡Enseñen a otros!

Learning a language requires you to not only listen, read, and write, but to speak the language as well.  This will help you wire your brain to remember the great stuff you’ve just learned in Spanish! (See our blog post about this!) So, after you’re done, see if you can recount your experience in Spanish! And, don’t forget to tell everyone what you’ve decided to do to reduce your waste! Why don’t you try to design a small poster for your house, in Spanish with some of your new words.  Alternatively, why not make a display and talk about it in Spanish.  Invite some friends who may be learning Spanish too.  Bring it to your co-op……or even the White House! :O

We don't know where our passions will lead us!

¿A dónde nos llevara nuestras pasiones? (Where will our passions lead us!) Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy. White House Science Fair 2013

Other Resources for a Waste Audit Spanish Lesson

But don’t stop here!  Continue with more science! Here is a link to some science project ideas relating to reducing or recycling your waste. https://www.epa.gov/students/science-fair-project-ideas

Looking for other interesting ideas?  Check out our R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish free resource guide on our website.

The Story of Stuff – A wonderful site with some movie shorts explaining environmental issues.  One of them is The Story of Stuff which they now have in Spanish!  La histoia de las cosas!

Green Schools Initiative – has a page where they list many resources for learning about going green and learning about reducing waste.  You can tweak all of the resources they suggest to custom fit your own learning environment.

Looking for more environmental vocabulary?  I just discovered Memrise.com and am checking it now to better understand the site.  I just came across their lists of environmental-related vocabulary: Memrise

First picture from Pixabay.com.  Last picture from White House Archives.  All the rest are my own.