Cutback Cleanups promotes environmental awareness through various projects

January 18, 2022 — by Sarah Zhou
Club faces challenges while operating without ASB approval

While most Santa Cruz-goers plan beach excursions with their friends to play in the waves or relax under the sun, senior Marina Kaypaghian, co-president of Cutback Cleanups, has different motives in mind: Her visits to the beach with her club are intended to reduce ocean pollution and educate students on climate change.

To date, Cutback Cleanups, a larger organization of Bay Area clubs, has hosted over 40 beach cleanups at locations ranging from Seabright State Beach in Santa Cruz to Beer Can Beach in Rio Del Mar. Kaypaghian hopes to mirror the organization’s success at SHS.

However, Cutback Cleanups is unlike other Saratoga clubs; while it is an approved club at Los Gatos High School, Soquel High School and West Valley College, it has run in Saratoga without ASB approval for two years.

The club originally presented to ASB early in the pandemic but was not approved as the club did not yet have a plan for a beach cleanup carpool system, Kaypaghian said.

ASB officers encouraged the club to collaborate with the Green Team, another club that encourages environmental awareness. But that collaboration hasn’t worked out so far, with Kaypaghian saying the Green Team hasn’t responded on social media and hasn’t been meeting regularly.

When the club decided to reapply with a carpool system for beach cleanups, Kaypaghian said they were denied again due to ASB officers thinking their club was too “cliche.”

“I love the idea of having students evaluate clubs,” Kaypaghian said. “Overall, I think ASB generally does a great job of evaluating clubs. However, Cutback Cleanups feels that ASB needs to track club participation better because of our experience with the Green Team.”

With the release of a new ASB club policy, Kaypaghian was concerned about a rule that unapproved clubs cannot claim SHS affiliation. 

“We want people to know our club is representative of multiple schools (LG, Santa Cruz and Saratoga),” Kaypaghian said. “We have never claimed ASB affiliation at SHS, but we would like to be able to say that our club is inclusive of Saratoga High School students.”

 Another challenge the club has faced while operating without approval is finding new members and advertising to underclassmen.

ASB-approved clubs receive ASB endorsement at events such as Club Day, which help increase participation, Kaypaghian said.

“With all club meetings online, it’s definitely been harder to keep all of our members informed,” senior co-president Elizabeth Lemberg said. “We have become super active on our social media platforms in order to advertise our events.”

Currently, Kaypaghian and Lemberg have been actively working with Los Gatos club president senior Hailey Anderson to turn the club into a nonprofit organization.

To apply to become a nonprofit, Cutback Cleanups filed to legally claim the name and formed a board consisting of Saratoga club presidents Kaypaghian, Lemberg, Anderson and West Valley club president senior Natalia Fulga. The next step to approval is to send in a detailed analysis of the club function, Kaypaghian said.

Cutback Cleanups at Los Gatos meets every week during lunch, but for Saratoga members, the opportunity to join weekly meetings is more limited due to their status as a non-ASB-approved club. All Cutback Cleanups officers from different schools meet together over Zoom every Sunday to discuss future plans, projects and locations of upcoming beach cleanups. During remote learning, officers presented weekly to members and neighboring elementary and middle schools on various topics such as the importance of engineering in ocean conservation, Lemberg said.

Additionally, Cutback Cleanups provides various opportunities each month for members to become involved in promoting environmental awareness.

“We started out only doing beach cleanups but now we have a variety of different events and projects,” Lemberg said. “Every month, we collaborate with Groundswell Coastal Ecology in watering plants for the monarch butterflies. Over the summer, members worked in small groups and created informational skits on climate change for Save our Shores, an organization that we partnered with.”

Currently, the Saratoga branch of Cutback Cleanups is undecided on reapplying for ASB approval, as both Kaypaghian and Lemberg are soon to graduate.

“We definitely have more events and projects than ASB-approved clubs because we need something to keep our members engaged,” Lemberg said, “but without the help of ASB, it’s hard to find out what underclassmen would be qualified to keep the club running.”