(This article was originally Published on Feb. 3, 2012 in Vol. XLVII, No. 5 of the Smoke Signal of Mission San Jose High School ~by Alekya Rajanala, A&E Editor)
The Service Learning Waste Reduction Project (SLWRP), a "go-green" initiative in schools across Alameda County, is taking root at MSJ through the combined efforts of several teachers and administrators. According to History Teacher Jeff Evans, a leader of the SLWRP at MSJ, the goal of the project is to raise high school students' awareness of the service learning aspect of environmental protection.
The current team, which hopes to recruit student leaders soon, consists of Social Studies Teachers Jeff Evans, Cate Ruebling, Roxanne Ponsi, Nancy Benton, and Assistant Principal Diana Brumbaugh. One of this year's main objectives is to host an interactive Service Learning Green Week with the support of MSJ student organizations such as Leadership 2 and Interact. One activity planned for the week-long event is a "Trashy Fashion" show, in which students dress up and flaunt homemade clothing created from salvaged trash articles or other unwanted material. Evans said, "We set the date of the Green Week for the last week of March because it appropriately coincides with Caesar Chavez Day, a day that serves as a tribute to Chavez's commitment to community service."
Through MSJ's involvement in the SLWRP, the school is provided access to some companies that support waste reduction efforts. On Oct. 26, 2011, one such resource, a company called Earth Team, worked with Ruebling's freshman Health class in performing a waste audit. The team and the students scavenged through the school's garbage cans after lunch to sort the trash into different categories and record their findings. Results from the activity, which can be found at www.schools.stopwaste.org, showed that only 18 percent of the waste found in the garbage cans was meant to be sent to a landfill, while the remaining 82 percent was classified as food scraps, untouched food, plastics, paper or metal, and should have been recycled or composted. It is this kind of environmental ignorance that Evans hopes the Service Learning Green Week will curtail.
Other FUSD high schools like Irvington, Kennedy, and American already have well-established waste reduction programs in place, and MSJ's SLWRP teachers hope that MSJ will soon reach the ranks of such schools in terms of environmental awareness. Evans said, "Our school does have a few programs that encourage recycling and reusing, and hopefully this project will make them more known to students and faculty. For instance, we have a clothing drop-off bin set up in the teacher parking lot, and for every pound of clothing contributed, MSJ's Special Education Department receives a small donation."
The SLWRP team has high expectations for the future of the project at MSJ, with ambitious goals like planting a victory garden and establishing a Green Commissioner position in ASB already being discussed. Evans said, "Right now there is so much waste at this school, but I am sure that with the right amount of effort at spreading 'green' awareness, MSJ can succeed in reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill each year."
(The original article appears on page 3 of the online publication of the school newspaper: http://issuu.com/smokesignal/docs/februrary_pdf)