Fighting for ecological justice

Introducing Sustainable Consumption to Children

Many ways can apply to showing love for the earth. Elisabeth Suwartini, a Kaoem Telapak member from Yogyakarta, has her way of introducing local food to her students.

Elisabeth Suwartini was born and raised in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta. She was born into a farming family. She said that farming is her primary profession. The land she owns is small, but Elisabeth and her family continue cultivating the ground to have crops still. Apart from being a farmer, she is also a breeder. Elisabeth said working as a farmer and breeder is common in her village. “In here, farmers are breeders too; by raising livestock, farmers can get fertilizer for free, so they don’t have to buy it if they want to plant. They also planted grass on their land to feed their livestock. Hence the circular process keeps running,” said Elizabeth.

Elisabeth has been practising Sustainable Farming, an initiative to manage agricultural land in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way, in her area. Around 2007, Elisabeth met Ruwi, a member of Kaoem Telapak. Ruwi introduced Kaoem Telapak, who at that time was still called Telapak. They discussed intensely. Then, they agreed to build the Wahana Lestari. One of the institution’s work is to encourage legal trade in timber.

“After joining Kaoem Telapak, I am even more enthusiastic about advocating sustainable farming,” said Elizabeth.

In 2014, Elisabeth became a teacher at an elementary school. Even so, she still puts farming as her primary profession. As a teacher, Elisabeth tries to instil the value of loving the earth in her students by introducing local food to the students.

At school, Elisabeth teaches her students sustainable farming. The children plant vegetables at school and cook and eat them together. Apart from that, Elisabeth also encouraged parents to provide their children with home-cooked meals, not instant ones. “I urge parents to bring rice and vegetables from their garden, so no rice with instant food,” Elisabeth explained.

Elisabeth Suwartini, member of Kaoem telapak of Yogyakarta

Apart from that, Elisabeth also told the student’s parents if they were too bothered to bring rice, they could replace it with other carbohydrates, for example, taro, sweet potatoes, or other tubers.

Not only to parents of students, Elisabeth also appealed to food vendors in her school canteen to provide more snacks made at home, not manufactured. Even if the food vendors sell noodles, it’s better if the noodles are homemade, “So it’s not just instant noodles,” he said.

Elisabeth explained three reasons she implemented this kind of Sustainable Consumption pattern:
1. Groceries from your garden are more economical than buying them at the market.
2. The food products are cleaner and fresher.
3. The food source does not use synthetic chemical drugs.

“If the food does not contain synthetic chemical substances, of course, it will be healthier,” said Elisabeth.

As long as Elisabeth is advocating Sustainable Consumption, there is no rejection from parents. Parents can adjust to Elisabeth’s appeal. If a child brings instant food, they still can eat it, but Elisabeth will give a warning and a bunch of vegetables. “Slowly, the habits will change. I do this for the benefit of my students,” said Elisabeth.

According to Elisabeth, the visible impact of the obligation to eat local vegetables and food makes her students look fresher and less likely to get sick. Due to this impact, Elisabeth’s movement received support from their parents. Some parents happily reported to Elisabeth that their child, who initially did not want to eat vegetables, became willing. “At first, I was the only one advocating it at school, then the parents got influenced, and after that, the parents influenced their family members,” said Elisabeth.

Elisabeth hopes her students can get used to following a healthy diet when they grow up. “Consuming food with local products does not have to spend much money, but it is healthier. That is the point,” said Elisabeth.