Green Team digs deep to put on an engaging Earth Week

May 30, 2018 — by Kaitlyn Wang and Jayne Zhou

Stationed at school entrances, bike racks and crosswalks, Green Team members waited for students to arrive to school on April 18 for Walk-it-Wednesday, the third of seven Earth Week events. Students who walked, biked or carpooled received a stamp, then filed into the quad to show their stamps for a free doughnut.

According to Green Team president Dasha Gousseva, the school’s second annual Earth Week, which took place from April 16-22, helped underscore some of the environmental challenges confronting the world.

Because Green Team could build off of last year’s activities, this year’s Earth Week was more successful, Gousseva said. Reaching out to more students and organizations helped increase participation and the variety of events hosted, which required hours of preparation.

According to Gousseva, Green Team started planning about two months ahead of time, mostly in person during weekly Green Team meetings but also through the use of  Google Docs and Spreadsheets, typically for about two hours each week. Co-president Annie Xu, vice president Frederick Kim, media coordinator Isabella Bradley, treasurer Kiran Rachamallu and secretary Bijan Naimi as well as members were involved in the planning. During Earth Week, it took three hours every day to plan the next day.

However, it was all worth the effort, Gousseva said, as the week provided opportunities for students to consider their impact on the environment.

“I think it gave a little more awareness to [different issues] so students were more conscious about their actions,” senior Stephanie Lemire, a Green Team member, said.

Earth Week began with Make-it-Monday: During lunch in the quad, students made bottle cap pins and entered a raffle to win eco-friendly school supplies. By participating in an ecoart activity, students decorated bottle caps that previously would have been thrown away, recognizing that “trash” can be reused to serve a purpose.

On Trash-it-Tuesday, Green Team displayed projects, made of recycled or reused items, from science teacher Kristen Thomson’s AP Environmental Science classes in the quad.

In addition, students could play games on Tuesday to enter a raffle for a Hydroflask. One game challenged students to differentiate between recyclables and trash, while the other was a “trash map of the world” — students guessed locations that matched with certain facts. For example, students tried to pinpoint the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s location on the map.

The projects and games allowed students to see how to properly dispose of waste and how objects that would have gone to recycling facilities or landfills could be used instead.

Extra credit from science teachers, including Thomson and Lisa Cochrum, encouraged students to attend the speaker event on Talk-it-up Thursday. Around 70 students attended.

“I thought it was extremely helpful not only to hear about each speaker’s particular issue, but also to hear about how they’d gotten into the job, how a lot of them had transitioned from another place in their lives and how they have seen a direct impact in each of their fields,” Cochrum said.  

Officers mostly looked for guest speakers through personal and parental connections, including researchers whom students helped over the summer. The speakers included Kathryn Beheshti, a Ph.D. candidate at UCSC who conducts field research on salt marsh systems and seagrass ecosystem services; Stephen Coates, a construction project executive and Constanza Rampini, a SJSU professor of environmental studies who investigated the flooding of the Brahmaputra River in India.

“Having been to India and having seen a lot of the complications and the bureaucracy and the educational system, I can’t fathom what it would take to create lasting environmental change,” Cochrum said. “Rampini had seen success and I thought that was really encouraging.”

Ending the school week, Film-it-Friday featured an afterschool showing of the “The True Cost,” a documentary questioning the ethics of the fashion industry regarding human rights and the environment, in the MAP Annex. Around 30 people attended. Following up on students’ questions after the movie, Green Team also created a map of Bay Area thrift stores and recommended the app Good on You, which provides information about how ethical it is to shop certain brands based on their impact on people, animals and the environment.

On the morning of Stroll-it-Saturday, 12 students participated in a wildflower hike at Long Ridge Open Space Preserve in La Honda.

During the hike, the group came across banana slugs, learned how to differentiate between poison oak and blackberry, tasted Douglas Fir pine needles and miner’s lettuce and shared snacks at a summit overlooking a view of the valley.

“The hike was really pretty, so that was a lot of fun,” Lemire said. “Junior Siena Parsons’s mom was a chaperone there, and she pointed out a lot of different wildflowers and plants and that was interesting because that’s not how I would normally hike.”

Finally, on Save-it-Sunday — Earth Day — Green Team and Marine Conservation Club volunteered with Save Our Shores at Davenport beach in Santa Cruz County. Around 14 participants picked up litter and recorded their findings for two hours. They also took a break to examine the mussels clustered along the shore and the sea anemone growing in tide pools.

A week of events concluding with Earth Day was Green Team’s way of inspiring students to incorporate environmentally friendly decisions into their daily routines, including recycling, proving that leading a sustainable lifestyle is simple and easy.

According to Gousseva, recycling at school is improving, but it is still an area needing focus.

“I think we’re a relatively environmentally conscious campus compared to other schools,” Gousseva said. “We’re not perfect, but at the same time I do see students making an effort to recycle.”

Green Team looks forward to further progress, as well as a more successful future Earth Week next year by increasing outreach and giving more prizes to participating students, Gousseva said.

Although the events may have seemed like a week of fun and free items for some students, Green Team hopes that student recognition of human impact on the environment will continue beyond a single week.

“The final thought we want students to take away is that we only have one Earth and we want to preserve it for that reason,” Gousseva said.