Alameda High School, home of the Hornets, has placed green concerns at the center of an array of classes and programs on campus. Green construction techniques are taught through the school’s wood shop class and students in AP Environmental Science regularly provide outreach and education to community members. Student leadership through the Sierra Student Coalition club organizes campus wide projects and events such as Earth Day festivals and a school garden. Student leaders are also actively engaged in helping to expand recycling at businesses and in public spaces in the community adjacent to the school campus along Park Street in Alameda. The school and district are investigating the potential installation of a large solar array on the high school and other school district properties.
AP Environmental Studies students at Alameda High School produced a short video investigating the question, purchase "Where do your clothes come from?" Their research showed that the vast majority of clothing purchased in the United States is shipped from overseas which incurs an environmental cost for transportation as well as loose environmental standards for production and worker safety.
The video includes tips for reducing the environmental impacts of clothing including shopping at thrift and consignment shops and/or looking for companies that have production closer to where the consumer lives.
Alameda High student Caitlyn Shener helped her school win an Ocean Guardian grant from NOAA to install a hydration station to easily refill reusable waterbottles. To help raise awareness about the new hydration station and to reduce the use of single-use disposable water bottles, price Caitlyn created this public service announcement video:
~ Guest post by Janet Chen ~
Alameda High School's celebration of Earth Day this year on Friday, May 2, highlighted a particular milestone: the installation of a hydration station. With an underlying theme of informing students about the ocean gyre, the festivities were complete with the sale of reusable water bottles, environmentally-themed stickers as bottle decor and lemonade and iced tea for those with reusable bottles.
Additionally, next year’s environmental commissioner Ariel Moyal was stationed by the leadership class’ booth, asking students trivia questions about the gyre. When they displayed adequate knowledge about the gyre or listened to Moyal’s explanation, they were awarded with wristbands. The Earth Day event also featured an array of pressed flower stationery and environmentally-themed face paint.
Photos by Nate Ivy
“If you’re attached to the ‘retro’ style, you might be disappointed,” said Alameda High School senior Caitlin Shener, who recently won a grant for a water bottle filling station, which will replace the decades-old water fountain currently located in front of the main building’s room 250.
Shener, the leadership class’s environmental commissioner, learned about the grant during the Service Learning Waste Reduction Project (SLWRP) conference. SLWRP works with middle and high school teachers and students to “find ways to reduce waste on campus and in the community through service and learning projects,” according to the project’s website.
Upon the realization that “it is an issue at our school that we do use too much plastic,” Shener spoke with environmental science teacher Dr. Carolyn Cover-Griffith, leadership class teacher Allen Nakamura and administrators for approval of the grant, then wrote the grant and submitted an application with the help of a few other students.
“It’s great to get a grant, but that’s when the work begins,” said Griffith. “Implementing the grant is the toughest part.”
When asked about her role in receiving and implementing the grant, Griffith laughed. “I said, ‘Good job, Caitlin!’” she recalled.
“I can’t wait to see it,” Griffith said. “It’s been a long process, so I’m just excited to see the equipment.” Shener recently met with a plumber to discuss the installation process. “Hopefully it will be installed soon,” She said.
The goal of the station is to reduce bottle plastic. “Our hope is that the station and the publicity around it will motivate more people to use reusable water bottles,” Shener explained. Non-reusable water bottles add to the several trash gyres in our oceans, which are full of non-biodegradable plastic. These gyres destroy marine ecosystems.
“It’s creepy,” said Griffith. “There are birds with plastic in their stomachs.”
According to “Business Insider,” the world spends over $100 billion a year on bottled water. And, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), over half of Americans drink bottled water.
The production of a water bottle requires three times more water than it does to fill it. Additionally, in one year, 17 million barrels of oil are used to produce plastic water bottles.
The water bottle industry grows 8-10% each year, faster than any other beverage, says the NRDC and because of aggressive marketing tactics, the public perceives bottled water to be safer and more pure in comparison to tap water.
“[The filling station] will give us the ability to numerically see how many water bottles we save,” said Shener, “but beyond that I hope it gives us a platform to teach about our ocean and how plastics affect it.” She plans to release a video this month to raise awareness about plastic’s effect on our oceans. She will also distribute stickers and host reusable water bottle giveaways.
“Non-reusable should not be a word,” Griffith said. She currently sells reusable water bottles in her classroom. These bottles are the product of a project completed by a group of AP Environmental Science students.
Griffith stressed that change must come from students. “Students do amazing things if you let them,” Griffith said, “and Caitlin has been working so hard.”
“The mindset of the school needs to be focused around sustainability,” said Griffith, “Recycle or die.”
If the holiday music radio stations, brightly embellished homes and bombardment of shopping advertisements are any indication, the holiday season is well underway. Before the streets of Alameda collapse into a complete festive frenzy, here are a few considerations to make this month for a more environmentally sound holiday celebration.
The holiday season, while arguably the most explosive time of spirit and cheer, makes a significantly negative environmental impact each year. Consumption rates skyrocket to an annual high, whether it be for trees, gifts, decorations or food. The chilly weather lends itself for higher energy use given that we use heaters indoors, and the need for mobility in transport and travels only exacerbates this problem.
To decorate in an energy conscious manner, consider using LED lights to string around your house or tree. LED lights are much more efficient than the traditional incandescent light bulb, using 90% less energy to produce the same degree of luminous intensity. Also, limit the hours of lighting to night time so that they are turned off in daylight. This way, we can enjoy the festive aesthetics of the decorated streets while cutting back on energy consumption.
Another major source of energy usage during the holiday season is the transport of artificial trees from overseas manufacturers. The alternative to that would be to purchase real trees from local farms, which contribute to the community’s economy. Some other benefits of choosing real trees are that small ones can be planted in the garden or kept as house plants, and that tree recycling programs, such as Alameda’s Boy Scouts troop 11’s annual tree pick up, collect and return the trees back to Alameda as mulch.
However, sometimes artificial trees are the more beneficial option. If real trees are cut down for the use of decoration inside the home, species are displaced in the process. Since trees also constitute our main supply of oxygen, the removal of them proves detrimental towards living organisms that need oxygen to live.
While only some parts of artificial trees can be recycled, they last long and rarely need to be disposed of. Because of this, they can generally be reused each year. Neither artificial nor real trees are much more environmentally advantageous than the other, so with either option, just make sure to purchase ones that are minimal in size.
Gifting is another area where we can drastically reduce our environmental impact with our choices. When purchasing, check antique stores or other second-hand stores to reuse items before buying something new. Avoid items that come with excessive packaging, and opt to purchase cards that are made with recycled paper.
When wrapping presents, give the item a recycled flair by using newspaper, old magazine pages, or even festive fabrics to cover up the gifts. Newspaper and magazine pages are also great resources to use for holiday crafts, and can easily be made into decorative ornaments or cut into snowflakes.
Also, consider gifting in different forms this year. Purchasing items for family and friends always runs the risk of being re-gifted or thrown away if not needed or wanted by the receiver. Instead, consider gifting in experience rather than material presents. For example, give tickets to a special event that you know the person would enjoy. Whether it be for ice skating, a concert, or a special exhibit at a museum, the gift of experience also comes with the value of company and created memories that will be treasured for life.
The meaning of the holiday season has also evolved, now in an inextricable relationship with shopping and consumerism. So in addition to consuming in an environmentally conscious way, make sure to bring reusable bags to hold what is purchased. If the destination is within reasonable distance, bike, walk, or take public transportation to reduce energy usage. The cold weather sometimes disincentivizes people to exercise, but even a brisk stroll or bicycle ride is beneficial towards health and well-being.
And in the aftermath of Christmas carols, family feasts, and purchased presents, consider that while many of us are privileged enough to enjoy a fulfilling holiday experience, several people are less fortunate and lack basic necessities that we may take for granted. With that in mind, there are several local charities that would benefit from donations of clothes, appliances, furniture, or volunteer service. This would allow for the reuse of unnecessary items, and the mitigation of difficulties that a large proportion of the world endures–even if slightly. So enjoy this holiday season taking care of yourself, others and the environment.