Environmental Science gets ‘trashy’

January 19, 2010 — by Vivian LeTran and Ren Norris

A student carries a designer bag filled with a week's worth of garbage for a AP Environmental Science project.

Senior Ally Doles strolled out of the AP Environmental Science classroom toward the quad. Over her shoulder she slung a white garbage bag filled with empty Doritos bags, wrinkled wrapping paper and folded gum wrappers. Many heads turned and shot her inquisitive looks, wondering if she had become a walking trashcan.

In reality, Doles was just doing her homework. This assignment was part of a lab for her AP Environmental Science class, which was studying waste management. The lab required students to accumulate all their garbage throughout the week, excluding food scraps or unhygienic material.

“We didn’t have to include food, which was nice for the project, but that’s where most people’s trash comes from, so it wasn’t as accurate as it could have been,” said Doles.

The students carried around the trash bags from Jan. 5-11, where they then went through the trash in class.

“We go through the trash and divide it up and analyze how much is paper or plastic, how much is recyclable and what the use behind it was; whether it was used for cleaning up stuff, or from shopping, or from packaging from something they just bought,” said AP Environmental Science teacher Kristen Thomson. “We want to see where it comes from, and then recycle and get rid of it.”

Despite the trouble of carrying around the trash bags, the students who took part in the lab found that they gained a greater sense of how much trash they really produce.

“It’s interesting because we don’t always realize what we’re throwing away in our trash and how much we really throw away,” said junior Leah Capek. “It was a hassle having to carry around the trash the whole time, but it caused us to look for ways to make less trash.”

Thomson hoped this lab would help students realize how much trash they produce in a week, and alternative methods to managing their garbage that could reduce environmental impact.

“I just wish that they get an awareness of how much trash they do generate, and make them think about choices they make when they buy stuff,” said Thomson. “If it makes even one student change how they approach what they buy or how they live, then that’s a success.”