The University Office of Global Programs is known for providing faculty and students with global perspectives through study abroad experiences and other programs. Recently, the Global Programs Green Team was also able to broaden its perspective, on sustainability efforts.
Jean Rodkey, administrative support assistant for global collaborations, and her Green Team were able to connect and have a Skype session with a colleague working in the West African country of Burkina Faso as part of Penn State’s Global Engagement Network. During the call, the Global Programs GT learned about some of sustainability processes and issues in Burkina Faso, especially in the village their colleague resides in. They were also able to share some of the university’s current sustainability efforts as well as some of their own with the colleague in Burkina Faso.
According to Rodkey, some of the main pieces of information they learned about Burkina Faso were:
The culture of Burkina Faso is much less consumer-based than in the U.S., meaning most products are purchased out of necessity instead of convenience
Glass and plastic bottles are rarely thrown away and are usually repurposed as opposed to being recycled
Items that cannot be repurposed/recycled (mainly food waste) are usually buried
There is a heavier focus than in the U.S. on using reusable shopping bags when in any store
The country currently has challenges in providing clean drinking water to all of its citizens and they can currently only afford to generate electricity with petroleum products
An interesting story about the village in Burkina Faso that was shared with the Green Team is that there is a woman who makes her living as a ‘repurposing business.’ People pay her to pick up items that they no longer have a need for and can’t recycle and then she takes these items and repurposes and distributes them to others in need.
Rodkey says that overall the experience was informative and allowed her Green Team to broaden their own perspectives on sustainability by learning a lot about how another culture viewed and worked toward it. She highly recommends other Green Teams to utilize the Global Engagement Network or their own personal networks to set up their own similar learning experiences.