Growing up, there was one saying repeated to me over, and over, and over: reduce, reuse, recycle. Of course, as a six-year-old, I had no idea what that meant. All I knew was that I should recycle paper and plastic water bottles. As I got older, I began to see headlines of “Global Warming: Real or Myth” or “Air Pollution Draws Athletes Out of Beijing Olympics.” It was rather shocking to see those things because they happen to affect me, as well as the rest of the human race. The noticeable changes in the weather and the poor air quality gave me the urge to get up and do something. Honesty, like most other people, I had no idea where to start. With these gigantic problems, the great majority of the population would rather just ignore it. As though it were like a giant bruise that will just go away once you stop thinking about it. But unlike most people, I want to change my unpredictable future. But then I thought, how could one teenage girl make a difference?
It wasn’t until I “graduated” from middle school to high school that I came upon the opportunity to actually make a difference in my community. It was the first week of sophomore year and my biology teacher brought up the Green Team. I knew I cared about the environment and wanted to make a difference, so I joined. The team was still young and inexperienced, but as time went on, we began to work as a well oiled machine.
The focus last year was energy, and with that, the team started making a plan. With the help of some of our staff mentors, we laid out a game plan to start saving energy in the school and around the district. We started making posters and advertising in the announcements to turn off any unnecessary electrical equipment. We put up posters around the community and the district began something called, The Battle of The Buildings. This made conserving energy into a district wide competition of who could save the most power. We also did our own version of the Power Police from the U of M and did our own Power Blitz. We went around the school, asking teachers and staff if they’d like to learn how to save energy in their rooms and give them options of what they can do.
We also began to sort the waste from our lunches. The sorting process began a few years before, but it really took off this year. We have four separate bins; milk cartons, trash, recycling, and composting. As teenagers, we get the rep of being juvenile delinquents, listening to our loud music and doing “risky” things. But most adults would be surprised that we, juvenile delinquents, actually care about our planet and can actually sort waste correctly. Even though we know students can sort their waste correctly, we recently found that there is room for improvement. Some members of the Green Team and I did a waste sort, we found out that most things in the trash could have been composted, over 280 pounds to be exact, just from that day.
Truthfully, that experience was eye opening. I’ve always believed that as human beings, we should give back to the earth because we take so much from it. There was so much to be composted that ended up in the trash. There were so many perfectly good apples, unopened milk cartons, bags of carrots, etc., that could’ve been used to feed someone who needs it. 53.7 pounds gone to waste. And what makes matters worse would be that only 17% of the waste in the trash bin was actually trash. Like last year, we did another Battle of the Buildings for composting, and unfortunately, the high school came in dead last. It may be just from laziness, forgetfulness, or just the lack of knowledge about what goes where, but we aspire to better inform the student body about composting and other environmental tactics and issues in order to become a more sustainable building and improve our environment, and by doing so, we may influence others to take action.
It’s rather sad to see perfectly good food go to waste, but with a student body of almost 2000 kids, I’d say we’re off to a good start. And we can improve even more, that’s why the Green Team, like many other environmental clubs across the state, was established. The school year may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the fight for a cleaner, more sustainable environment is over. Next week, the Green Team and other students will be planting vegetables in our school garden to later be donated to the local food shelf. We are also putting on a fundraiser to raise money in partnership H2O For Life in order to build a well in an African village. This will impact not only the water in this village but give the children an opportunity to attend school. I may have one more year of high school, but I have an entire lifetime to make a difference, I hope to influence others to make a difference as well by promoting the Green Team and YEA!MN to students and encourage others to be aware of the environmental changes and problems affecting our community and the world.