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Going green: We have a ways to go

March 13, 2018

Green. It seems like this word is thrown around all the time these days, whether in regards to climate change, construction or efforts by schools and businesses. Discussions about the environment come up all the time, and yet it seems like there is little action. Nordic saw this and was curious to discover how “green” Inglemoor really is. Here’s the short answer: we aren’t. In this special feature, Nordic takes a look at what students and teachers at the school are doing and could be doing to make our school more environmentally friendly.

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Earth Corps asks school to turn a new leaf

It’s Monday morning, and in Sue Black’s biology classroom, about a dozen students are thinking about trash: How can it be reduced? How could cafeteria-goers be encouraged to dispose of it properly?

These students are members of Earth Corps, a small but dedicated group that works to make our school more environmentally conscious. The members are the driving force behind several things on campus that are now considered staples, like the water bottle refiller and the current waste sorting system in the cafeteria.

“I think what it promotes is really good,” senior Kaya Newell said.

Newell joined this year with her friend Olivia Walchenbach. They both joined on a whim, but stayed because of the focus on current events and the possibility of creating real change in their community.

“I find it fun thinking of ideas on how we can improve the school,” Walchenbach said.

Around the school, Earth Corps is perhaps best known for “campus clean-ups,” in which students who aren’t involved in the club can spend a few hours picking up litter in exchange for Valhalla hours. Senior president Andrea Reyes considers this to be her favorite part of leading the club.

“I feel like it’s not just a way to get community service,” Reyes said. “It’s really a wake-up call for lots of people.”

Reyes said that many students are disgusted and fascinated by the strange things they find on the ground, like decade-old Pepsi cans and metal utensils.

“We find a lot of crazy things out there,” Reyes said. “It’s a way for people to realize that when you litter, it just stays there.”

Currently, the club is focusing on cafeteria waste. During one meeting, Reyes discussed the creation of several models of cans with different types of waste in them, to be displayed in the cafeteria above the compost, trash and recycling bins. Earth Corps hopes that these visual models would promote proper waste disposal. The club is also encouraging the school to replace plastic utensils with compostable ones. The members of Earth Corps are aware that the topics they are so passionate about may seem mundane to other students.

“As much as I would really love to change the big things —go 100 percent with renewable energy — I can’t,” Reyes said. “I think that people need to be really passionate about changing the things they can change.”

Reyes said that she believes the school could be doing a lot more to improve its carbon footprint. With the campus due for a remodel, Earth Corps has been pushing for solar panels, sunlight-sensing light bulbs and a school garden.

Reyes said she recognizes that these largescale changes may seem unrealistic due to the school’s already tight budget, but she also knows that Earth Corps is standing for a valid cause.

“I don’t really think you can put a price on the environment,” she said.

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Students find their own solutions

For bustling high schoolers, it is often too time-consuming or expensive to commit to growing beefriendly gardens or buying locally-sourced crops. It can feel impossible to live a green lifestyle underneath someone else’s roof. However, some Inglemoor students have taken matters into their own, green-thumbed hands through involvement in sustainable food and agriculture.

Last summer, senior Jerry Cao explored his interest in bioengineering through an internship at Project Feed 1010. Project Feed 1010 is working to explore sustainable agriculture through aquaponics.

“Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture, which is the raising of fish and hydroponics, which is the growing of plants in water or nutrient-rich solution,” Cao said. “The goal of the program is to get students to go out and integrate aquaponics into their community.”

For Cao, this internship was more than just a resume builder. He said that his interest in bioengineering made Project Feed 1010 a great experience for him.

“I thought this was a really good opportunity and it was something that needed to be done, especially because there’s so much about traditional agriculture that makes it really bad [for the environment]. For example, aquaponics allows you to save 90 percent of the water that would be used by traditional agriculture because of runoff,” Cao said.

When it comes to making aquaponics more accessible for all students, Cao said that he thinks there are options.

“Other ambassadors have integrated it into schools. It could be integrated into the ecology unit for biology, as it is something that could be a great teaching tool,” Cao said. “People are usually surprised that you can grow plants in water.”

Although she isn’t growing her own plants, senior Alison Mador has also considered sustainable agriculture as a way to reduce her impact. To reduce her impact, she changed her diet by cutting out dairy, meat and all other animal products.

“I initially went vegan for health reasons,” Mador said. “Then I started learning about the ethical reasons for going vegan and how animals are treated in agricultural settings. That’s not something I wanted to continue to support.”

Mador said that her initial findings about the impacts of agriculture only drove her towards further research.

“From an environmental standpoint, [agriculture] is not good,” Mador said. “One of the scary statistics is that we could see fishless oceans by 2048. It’s not beneficial for anybody involved — especially not the animals.”

Although some consider the switch to a vegan diet drastic and difficult, Mador said that this wasn’t the case for her.

“It wasn’t actually too hard for me because I had done a lot of research, so I was pretty educated,” Mador said. “I did it overnight, and I didn’t really look back.”

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How to become a Green Ribbon School

The U.S. Dept of Education has created the Green Ribbon program to commend schools that actively reduce environmental impacts. For Inglemoor to receive this honor, we would need to do the following:

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Cafeteria remains dirty despite reminders

Only half a school year has passed and a new pressing problem has emerged: people don’t clean up after themselves after lunch. We’ve had school announcements, advisory messages and even GMI video features on keeping the lunchroom clean — yet nothing has worked so far. Given the extensive number of reminders that students have already been exposed to, it’s hard to imagine a solution that incentivizes students enough to pick up after themselves.

Although the custodians do their best to keep the lunchroom tidy between lunches, the lunch tables are still dirty almost every day of the week at the beginning of second and third lunches. If you ever sit at one of these later lunches, you’re sure to notice the leftover signs of previous lunches: fragments of nacho chips, scattered rice all over your lunch table and empty bottles of Cascade Ice all over the floor. The people that end up sitting at these tables have to be the ones to clean it up. As the lunchroom is a place for people to eat meals, the sight of such messes isn’t very appetizing, nor is it sanitary.

Not only that, but the garbage that is tossed into a bin often doesn’t even make it into the right one. During a regular lunch, the trash can is often overflowing whereas the recycling and compost bins are nearly empty. Even though it only takes an extra ten seconds to sort one’s trash, many students just choose to throw their entire lunch into the “trash” bin. By throwing recyclable and compostable items into the trash bin, we’re adding more mass to landfills and negating the reason those recycling and compost bins were put there in the first place.

This isn’t the custodians’ job. They have to clean the rest of the entire school, fix the lights and heaters and make sure every single door is locked and accounted for. Throwing away everyone’s trash after all three lunches may as well be a full time job, and they don’t always have the space in the schedule to do that for us. Taking care of our own garbage is the least we can do for our custodians, and it’s a positively impactful way to improve the campus.

Our school has already done a lot to help us realize that picking up our trash is a big deal. The only problem is, not enough students have responded. We shouldn’t convince ourselves that “someone else will do it” or “it’s not our job.” As the school year so far has proven, that mentality doesn’t work and the lunchroom still ends up extremely dirty for the next lunch period. We’re the ones who are using the lunch room, so it’s our responsibility to clean it.

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