Registered: June 2014
City/Town/Province: Granite Bay
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Due to my interest in sustainability, I wonder about a variety of environmental topics. How can more objects be recycled and prevented from filling up landfills? Can objects in the Pacific Garbage Patch be reclaimed and turned into something useful? How can food waste be prevented while food justice ensured? How can transportation become more sustainable and efficient in populated cities? In my spare time, I can be found drawing and designing my own environmentally-sound towns that include efficient irrigation, eco-friendly transportation, clean energy, and low impact landscaping. While creating these towns, I find myself wondering about how the world works, and thinking about innovative solutions to environmental problems and how I can go about making change.
While walking along the Folsom Lake, I knew action was needed when I stood before a trash-laden and polluted area; a huge collection of plastic bottles and Styrofoam containers covered the waters, while the sands bore a myriad of abandoned objects. During my sophomore year, I organized a Folsom Lake trash clean up. After the clean up, a team of four removed nearly one hundred pounds of trash. This clean up led me to realize the power of taking initiative.
Recognizing a lack of environmental awareness and pollution in my community led me to team up with an ecologically-minded friend to start the Go Green Club at Granite Bay High School (GBHS). At the beginning of my junior year, my friend and I discussed how our club would create a more environmentally-sound community by participating in community events, organizing club events, and promoting environmental sustainability. During one of our first meetings, our club advisor and Spanish teacher, doña Julia, said, “¡Vaya verde!” or “Go green!” which became our club motto.
During the Fall of 2014, the Go Green Club grew produce for the Placer Food Bank at the sustainable Otow Orchard Community Garden. In November, I organized another trash clean up at Folsom Lake.
The Granite Bay High School campus is home to an immense amount of geese due to the seemingly endless supply of trash for them to feed on. Therefore, in January of 2015, club members met for a trash clean up at GBHS. The clean up crew worked hard to remove the excessive amount of trash from the high school, the nearby park, and the school’s running trail.
The following month, I worked with club members to organize a recycled craft day. At this event, club members found creative ways to turn old products into something new.
At the Celebrate the Earth Festival, club members volunteered and had the opportunity to see inventive environmental technology and sample sustainably produced food.
At the end of my junior year, the Go Green Club began making plans to improve our school’s very weak paper recycling program. At that time, most teachers did not have paper recycling bins in their classrooms and most students did not use the bins that were there. In order to find out how the Go Green Club could best help improve the paper recycling program, we conducted a survey. Out of the 26 teachers and administrators that responded, 15 agreed strongly that the paper recycling system needed to be improved. After gathering data from the teachers and administrators, the Go Green Club developed a plan to improve the paper recycling system.
Throughout the summer and fall of my senior year, Go Green Club members volunteered at the Dancing Dog Community Garden. Volunteering at the garden further allowed us to learn about environmentally friendly gardening practices while growing food for the Placer Food Bank.
During the beginning of my senior year, the Go Green Club began meeting weekly and implementing our plan for the paper recycling project. By the end of the first semester, the club had made and distributed over 20 recycling receptacles.
In order to increase the amount of paper being recycled, I created a paper recycling pick-up schedule and the club started meeting an additional day of the week to help empty the bins. Since Granite Bay High School has over 2,000 students and more than 85 classrooms, we divided the school into three sections. Each bin is emptied every three weeks. The amount of paper we collect is increasing every week. After finishing our rounds, the paper is taken to the school’s paper recycling dumpster.
This year, the Go Green Club had the opportunity to participate in the American River Trash Clean Up. Enthusiastic club members climbed up the cliffs to remove bottles, balloons, and cigarettes that had been deserted long ago. Meanwhile, we met with Friends of Lake Folsom and Natoma (FOLFAN) volunteers who taught us more about protecting our local lakes and rivers.
A couple months later, I hosted a trash clean up at Cavitt Junior High School where we removed trash from the school and surrounding nature trails. In order to have a larger impact, the Go Green Club partnered with the GBHS National Honor Society. After two hours, nearly 100 pounds of trash was removed, including an old television.
During the spring term, the Go Green Club will continue to establish a greener planet. In January, we will be hosting a paper recycling contest.
Furthermore, I look forward to sharing my take out container project with the Go Green Club in January. This project involves persuading local restaurants to switch from Styrofoam to more eco-friendly containers. Polystyrene, or Styrofoam, releases 57 chemical byproducts in its production, is known for causing cancer, is the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste, and takes more than a million years to biodegrade. My presentation includes a detailed report, a cost analysis, and a sampling of take out containers, including those made from sugarcane and bagasse. I have presented this information to a popular, eight-chain restaurant, Mikuni, and a local favorite, Vaiano Trattoria. In the spring, I plan on continuing to meet with restaurant managers. Moreover, the Go Green Club is seeking to showcase my findings about the importance of eco-friendly packaging at the Celebrate the Earth Festival.
In February, the Go Green Club will be hosting another recycled craft day. In the Spring, club members will resume volunteering at the community gardens and will participate in the Celebrate the Earth Festival.
Through stewardship, volunteerism, and leadership, the Go Green Club has established a more environmentally-sound school and community. Participating in the Go Green Club has led me to recognize the relationship between sustainability and social justice; having a clean and livable planet is a basic right that all people deserve. Founding the Go Green Club has given me the opportunity to work with like-minded people while learning more about sustainability and being an environmental steward. I look forward to seeing the club continue to make an impact after I graduate.
After high school, I plan to pursue a sustainability-related major. I will continue to work as hard as a beaver in order to leave the planet a more just and environmentally-sound place than I found it.
END OF ESSAY
Post-project Interview with NWP:
What are your educational, career, and life goals?
I will be attending the University of California-Davis next year and I plan to major in Environmental Policy Planning and Analysis. In college, I look forward to learning about different aspects of the environment, including environmental policy, green transportation, urban planning, clean energy, and water conservation. Meanwhile, I will work with like-minded and progressive students who are determined to create a more just and environmentally sustainable planet. After college, I would like to attend graduate school and pursue an environmental career. I will always be dedicated to working as hard as possible in order to leave the world a more equitable and environmentally sound place than I found it.
What are the benefits of your Apprentice Ecologist project and how has it enriched your life?
Starting the Go Green Club has given me the opportunity to work with other like minded people to create a greener school and community. I look forward to seeing the Go Green Club grow in the future and continue to establish a more environmentally sound community. The Apprentice Ecologist Project allowed me to learn more about leadership and environmental stewardship. As an Apprentice Ecologist, I learned the importance of taking initiative. By co-founding the Go Green Club and organizing environmental events, I learned that I can make a positive difference for the environment. Meanwhile, working with a team led me to collaborate with others about ways to create a greener community. I have also enjoyed learning about other Apprentice Ecologist projects and how people around the world are taking action to make the world a more environmentally-sound place.
Why do you feel it is important to be an active steward of the environment now and in the future?
Being an active steward of the environment is crucial in order to foster a greener and more livable planet for future generations. With advancing technology, such as electric vehicles, solar energy, and sustainable farming, we have the potential to implement new policy to create a greener planet. However, if we do not continue to improve environmental technology and implement eco-friendly practices, future generations will live in a world of great environmental destruction. Environmental sustainability and social justice are connected in that everybody deserves to have the fundamental right of having a livable and clean environment. If we want to protect the world’s ecosystems and biodiversity, people must come together to establish a more environmentally sustainable planet.