My name is Sasha Coke, and within my time at Hawai’i Outdoors Institute, I have sincerely come to appreciate the environment and the importance of both preserving and conserving it. With the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, we went to South Point to perform a beach clean-up, in which we cleared dozens of bags full of trash. Most of the debris we picked up was plastic. The trash there was not dumped there, but swept up from the ocean by currents. Potentially, this trash came from all over the world and ended up on this culturally significant beach.
When we neglect to recycle plastic, or we use plastic that is not recyclable, it can pollute the environment and endanger marine life. Consider the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That unnatural island of trash is a saddening example of the pollution present. Even though I have always been one to recycle, I have been thinking more cautiously about what I do and do not put in the trash. And though I am just one person, I know it can make a difference, especially if I can influence others to recycle as well. In addition to recycling, reducing how much plastic we buy is also another very important way to decrease our impact on our environment.
Although trash is not as obvious of a problem as the fires or droughts in California, where I live, it is still an issue. So when I realized that my high school has no environmentalist club of any kind. I doubt even half of the teachers have recycling bins. My theater teacher once told me, “I’ve asked again and again for a recycling bin, but they [the office staff] haven’t given me one.” Additionally, in my biology and French classes, the recycling was treated as if it was a second trash can. Clearly, this is an issue. If those classrooms cannot be mindful of their waste, then I do not have confidence that the rest of the school would be good at it, either. That’s why I think starting an environmentalist club when I go into sophomore year at my high school would help. In this club, we could also brainstorm other ideas that would help our school reduce how much plastic we buy, use more reusable containers, encourage students to use water bottles, and switch to aluminum and glass as much as possible.
At my middle school, we had an environmentalist club called the Green Keepers which I was a member of for three years. In the club, we focused on campus recycling and field trips to do things along the lines of clean areas or plant trees. The teacher who led this effort retired two years ago, right after I left, but I managed to get in touch with him again for this reason. Upon emailing him, he gave me some of the following advice, among other things; start small and widen our ambitions when the club gains more experience.
Before I can even get the club started, I’ll need a handful of other students and a teacher who wants to help. Then, once we sign up, we’ll make flyers and advertise it on my school’s club days. Our first order of business as a club will be to provide every teacher with adequate recycling opportunities. That goal is easy; every teacher who doesn’t have a bin will get a bin. Next, we will make a PSA during the morning bulletin about the importance of recycling. Included in the announcement will be a call for teachers to make sure this goal is carried out. Campus litter clean-ups during lunch every once in a while is another good small goal. That can be our focus once the recycling goal is accomplished. Along with recycling, we will suggest that the school students and staff reduce their use of plastic at school. Encouraging the cafeteria staff to use alternatives to plastic, such as cardboard, would be significant. Many teachers waste paper so we can influence them to be more mindful of that as well.
Since clubs usually meet once every two weeks at my school, this will certainly take some time. In the following years, we can try for bigger goals, like planting trees and flowers on campus or volunteering with local organizations. My old teacher recommended working with organizations like Save the Bay or Friends of the Los Gatos Creek. It would be nice to have a garden planted by my senior year.
Team leadership is not my strongest skill, so while I desire to spearhead this idea, the club will be a team effort. Each person in the club can have a major role where we can all support each other and brainstorm ideas. I have started a club before, though it was very laid-back and not nearly as impactful as this will be. So really, this will be an important learning experience for me, and hopefully for everyone included as well.