Creative Climate runner up – Afolakemi Ogunnubi

Sustainability- what do we really need to do?

As I got down from the plane, waiting for my host to pick me up; I looked round in enthusiasm to the beauty of organisation, the structured buildings, the way people queued at the shops. First time I was going to see a lot of “oyinbo” people around me, as they were often called back in Africa where I come from. On a good note I was prepared to enjoy my one year programme, try and mix with the people and understand the culture even more. I said a word of prayer for safe arrival. Few minutes later my host arrived and we got in the car. So he was to drive me to Leeds where I spend a few days with them and finally get a train to Aberdeen to start my programme.

As we drove on, I couldn’t but observe the scenery, the views, the traffic lights , malls and shops. After about 1hr 30mins we stopped to take a break; what I now understand to mean “StopOvers” . Well I wasn’t so familiar with the kind of snacks such as burgers, sandwiches with vegetables in contrast to the “Dundun and Akara” which is equivalent to fried yam and bean cakes made by the woman by the road side near my house in Africa. For the rich families who had the opportunities to get to the malls situated in some parts of Nigeria- probably must have had a taste of the burgers. 5 years down the line; I happen to hear we now have burgers and sandwiches but am still not sure about the health and safety.

Anyways, I was delighted with the beauty of the malls and how fun filled it will be to shop for clothes and food stuff. As we walked in , my host kept walking and we got to a place named Burger King (never heard about it until then). Interestingly, there was a queue; I sat down watching everyone pass and people eating in such an orderly manner. Oh I noticed the bins even in strategic places compared to the pile of rubbish usually found by the road side, Even if there were bins people hardly noticed them. The bins where built in such a way that you cannot miss it with inscriptions such as: “I am a bin”, “Use me” “Litter Bin” how thoughtful- I thought. It was our turn and we bought the meal. I observed the way the customer service personnel said thank you after she was been paid and my host said thank you after been served; that in itself was amazing for me. We rarely get such compliments as a customer back home neither do we pay gratitude for getting the products we paid for.
While eating I could see the attendants clean tables as people left their seats. People take their rubbish to the bins and the attendants just had to clean the table and make it ready for the next customer. We finished eating and left to continue our journey.

As my host drove, he kept telling me about the beauty of the night, the security structure, the ambulance pick up in case of emergency – the fines for dropping litters , the fine for driving carelessly, the recycling bins. By the time we got to Leeds it was 8pm and the whole area was lit up like it was 4pm. My host explained that during summer, which I now realize is my best time of the year; may be for you too; the day is longer. Interestingly, the whole area was lit up- no black outs, like there was going to be a party or something. The beautiful roundabout with water falls and structures made it more exquisite.
We got to the house and I entered with so much joy to meet the family and then I went into the kitchen, there was a microwave, washing machine, dish washer. I thought wow. I do not need to bend to wash anymore; my hands are finally free from brushing clothes together. As I laid to rest; I reflected on all that happened and I wondered if I was in paradise; how I crave my country to be like this.
5 years down the line; I now understand that my experience on my first arrival to a place largely called developed Country; my outlook reflected where I was coming from. My Country Nigeria, commonly described by Economist as a developing country needs Sustainability.

Yes we all need Sustainability but we have to start where we are. We cannot change the world if we have not changed our homes, our neighbourhoods, our environments, our Streets, our country.
The various people I met on my first day of arrival influenced my experience greatly. The extra efforts the people make to sustain the environment cannot be underestimated- the “thank yous” after been served is a form of appreciation to the staff and encouragement to keep doing the good work. The “queue” is understanding the concept of orderliness and Organisation, a form of respect to the stranger and neighbor we happen to meet at the shops. That in itself is Sustainability. Obeying the laws as stated, respecting that not dropping a litter on the floor and dropping the right product into the recycled bin; taking just what we need and avoiding wastage; goes a long way.

The words of Sharma, A. et. al (2010)
” The starting point for sustainability is simple: if everyone recognizes that ecosystems and natural resources are limited, economic decisions can be so oriented that the end products of economic actions are environmentally sustainable as well” (Sharma, A. et. al. 2010, p. 331)

Sustainability is an action we take to make other people have a better experience whether we know it or not. It is the responsibility of everyone to be sustainable; only then can we have a sustainable environment.Sustainability- what do we really need to do?