Making a difference, one tree at a time

I’ve always wanted to make a difference. The problem is, I never really knew how. I wanted to make a change, but I found it hard to pinpoint where to start. But lately, I’ve found myself finding that drive to go the extra mile, and I found this new passion with helping Mother Nature.

Sure, many would think that it’s really easy to say that they are supporting initiatives to reduce waste, and go green but truly, it takes true dedication to try to influence people to do so as well.

At DLSU-D, the Information and Communications Technology Center’s Project ICON (ICT Creates Opportunities for Nature) drive (of which I’m co-chairman) seeks to promote awareness about the responsible disposal and management of electronic waste. As part of the industry that causes the rapid accumulation of e-waste due to the rising demand for new products, softwares and gadgets, IT personnel from our office wanted to find a venue to mitigate the impact of these electronic wastes on Nature by partnering with responsible scrappers who will give fresh new life to these discarded electronics.

Proceeds from the sale of these e-waste are then used to purchase seedlings to be planted in locations identified by the University’s Environmental Resource Management and Campus Development Office and the One Million Trees and Beyond Project.

Last year, ICTC personnel were able to plant 1,250 mangrove seedlings in Calatagan, Batangas. Mangroves are important agents in various ecosystems as they provide shelter for small fishes and at the same time serve as filters against harmful agents, as well as shields against erosion, waves or water movement. This year, Team ICON took on the much more challenging task of trekking to the top of Mt. Palay Palay to clear and dig holes in which to plant 345 fruit seedlings  which could mitigate flooding. The drive seeks to replace foliage lost to deforestation, and protect lowlands from flashfloods, which have become more common in recent years.

THE LONG ROAD. The 45-minute trek to the top begins. Bearing fruit seedlings in net bags, Team ICON begins the journey. (photo by Lovely Roxas)
TAKING THE GOOD WITH THE BAD. Green is not always good as these tall grasses need to be cleared in order for plant seedlings to survive. These grasses  function as weeds that stifle the seedlings when they grow unchecked. (photo by Lovely Roxas)
CLEARING, DIGGING, PLANTING. Going green is easier said than done. (photo by Lovely Roxas)

The road has not always been smooth for the project. Of course, like many other programs, movements and plans are always subject to the availability of funds. There is also the issue of logistics as for the first year, there was no secure location in which to store items that will be donated by personnel and students. But hard work bears fruit, despite the challenges, the project was able to survive because of the dedication of ICTC personnel in findings ways to move the project forward.

As testament to the Team ICON’s commitment to the program, the Center chose to focus the celebration of its third ICT Week on its advocacy and aptly themed the festivity ICONtribute! ICT Creates Opportunities from Nature in which activities have been pegged to raise funds and raise awareness on the cause.

Highlights of the festivities were kick off events ICON Run: ITakbo Mo, ITatanim Ko (You run, we’ll plant) which raised over P10,000 from roughly 150 participants who wanted to support the cause. Students who participated in contests held throughout the week were enjoined to bring their e-wastes, to which they responded positively. IT students also took part in an E-waste seminar in which Albert Lozada, a representative from Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Marlon Pareja, director of the ERMCDO and John Mendez, Database Administration Unit Head and Chairman of Project ICON spoke of the ill effects of electronic waste on human health (exposure and contamination leads to damage to vital organs — more on this on future articles).

For my part, I also spoke before students about electronic wastes and climate change before trainings and seminars scheduled for the week to maximize the opportunity to encourage students and faculty to back the project. Sir John and I did simultaneous talks in different sessions. It feels good to be an environmentalist.

Even though the week was gruelling, it was quite rewarding. Entering ICON’s third year as a project, we are gradually noticing the changes and people’s attitudes towards electronic waste. And while recyling these electronics only serve to reduce waste for the meantime, at least we are doing something to curb the problem. And we’re hitting two birds with one stone. We are also helping Mother Nature by planting trees that could help her recover from years of abuse and irresponsible use of her resources.

TEAM ICON in last year’s tree planting drive. (photo by Ohsie Austria)

We may be saving lives for all we know, or we may be starting a revolution from this corner of the earth. And while we are just starting out with baby steps towards the overall goal, I could not help but feel pride for what little we have accomplished. I continue to look forward to what else we could achieve in the days, and the years to come, as Team ICON.

For more information about Project ICON, check out our official page here, and for updates, like us on facebook.