Student collaboration for environmental awareness: Lane holds its first Earth Week
May 17, 2017
Students entered the cafeteria after school on April 27 to see an overwhelming variety of shirts, sweaters, scarves, and shoes scattered on the tables. A thrift store was set up with the intent to raise money as well as awareness of environmental sustainability. Students rummaged through the items, occasionally trying on clothes that catch their eye.
Lane held its first Earth Week on April 24-28 to make students more mindful of their actions towards the planet and encourage the school to lower its environmental footprint.
Throughout the week, students were invited to take part of environmental initiatives such as turning off classroom lights in order to reduce the school’s energy usage, using carbon-free and public forms of transportation to school, and donating clothes which would later be sold at a thrift store to raise awareness of the harmful practices of the fashion industry while encouraging students to recycle and reuse clothing.
Earth Week was organized by Victoria Bartoszewicz, co-founder of the CPS High School Student Sustainability Board, as well as through the help by other Sustainability Board members, students and teachers.
“I hope [students] got that sustainability isn’t just about planting trees,” Bartoszewicz, Div. 854, said. “It’s about doing things every day in your life like acting locally but thinking globally — the global impact.”
The CPS High School Student Sustainability Board is a student-run organization created in February that brings together students from different high schools in monthly meetings to share ideas and collaborate on different projects regarding the environment.
Bartoszewicz met other Sustainability Board Co-founder, Maeve Masterson, who attends Northside College Prep, through a summer program called Sustainable Summer at Dartmouth College.
After learning about a student-run environmental coalition implemented in a different school from another student who attended the summer program, they were inspired to create their own organization where students from CPS can meet and make a difference for their high schools.
“We shouldn’t [have] had to have gone across the country to find someone else from our city who’s passionate about sustainability,” Bartoszewicz said. “So that was sort of the idea, that we get people together in the city so we could meet each other and collaborate.”
The Sustainability Board currently has members from Lane, Northside, Jones, and Von Steuben with hopes to incorporate more schools entering next school year, according to Bartoszewicz.
In addition to sharing ideas and collaborating on potential projects during meetings, the board members have hosted guest speakers, attended film screenings, and participated in the People’s Climate March on April 29.
On why she joined the Sustainability Board, Sophie Smith, Div. 980, said, “It’s just so important and I don’t think enough people realize that. It’s not about me; this is for the rest of the world.”
According to Bartoszewicz, the idea for Earth Week came by sharing ideas with the other high schools from the Sustainability Board.
“[Earth Week] was good definitely for our first run,” Smith said. “Hopefully next year we’ll have more people on the Board to help out; I’m just kinda hopeful that it will keep growing and improving.”
Smith also said Earth Week could have been improved by spending more time advertising the event and allowing more people time to donate clothes for the thrift store.
Nonetheless, Lane members are hopeful for the Sustainability Board and already have ideas for future projects.
“I know that there are a lot of things we could do better; I already have a list going,” Bartoszewicz said. “I’m excited for the next years to come.”
Bartoszewicz said she eventually wants to create a composting program at Lane — similar to one Northside College Prep has — and hopefully implement solar panels. The Sustainability Board is also planning to host an interactive workshop called “Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream Symposium” on May 25.
Environmental Club President Emily Eng, Div. 753, hopes for the club to collaborate with the Sustainability Board in the future.
“We’re working on planning something called a ‘green locker clean up’ so that at the end of the year when we clean out all our lockers we don’t end up throwing [away] school supplies and other stuff that could still be useful for other students,” Eng said.
Similar to the Sustainability Board, Environmental Club works throughout the year to help Lane and the community be more eco-friendly.
“Our biggest focus throughout the year is to make sure that all the recycling in the school is going in the right place,” Eng said. “I feel like we all play a part into what we have done to the planet and I think that everyone also has the potential to help it as well.”
As much as green initiatives can help raise awareness and help reduce the carbon footprint, there are also difficulties of transferring awareness into action.
“I think everyone knows they can play a part to the environment but I think it’s kind of like the bystander effect,” Eng said. “When you’re watching everything going on you don’t really want to be the one to take the initiative; I think that’s one of the biggest challenges of spreading the message.”
However, Bartoszewicz explained that in order to make a change, people must be able to change themselves.
“People often see sustainability as meaning that you need to give things up or have less- consume less, have less. Although this is partly true, I think sustainability is something that calls us to be more — think more, act more, believe in ourselves some more,” Bartoszewicz said. “It means not living less, but living more, and more meaningfully at that.”