Environmental Year in Review

This article is the first in a series of end-of-year reports from officers of various Marblehead High School activities. Although the work of many clubs was cut short, the 2019-20 school year represented a huge wave of progress for many MHS organizations, and we are excited to shine a light on their success.

In our first full year of work, Marblehead High School’s chapter of the National Green Schools Society has created a new culture of environmentalism at MHS. Working with a collective of over 60 students from Grades 9-12, we embraced long-standing initiatives to develop a sustainable school cafeteria, transportation system, and garden. We worked in three independent project groups: one to promote cafeteria sustainability, another to maintain our new aquaponics system, and the last to lead a campaign against idling vehicles outside of the school. These groups worked separately, but each month we came together to reflect upon our individual efforts and develop new opportunities for members to promote environmentalism during school hours. Our progress was fast-paced, and when we succeeded in this group, we were only inspired to push towards further MHS environmentalism.

Cafeteria Sustainability:

For years, students at MHS have advocated for the school cafeteria to transition from the use of styrofoam trays to compostable trays. With the help of district administrators, we were in the final steps of planning this switch before Governor Baker closed Massachusetts schools for the remainder of the year. Eventually, compostable trays will significantly decrease our trash output in the cafeteria, and they fit in line with our year long mission to improve the cafeteria waste management system. MHS has had its own composting system for years, but when there were no monitors to watch the composting bins, students contaminated the compost with plastic trash. NGSS minimized this risk by creating a centralized trash, recycling, and compost station where members monitored and assisted their peers when it came time to throw out their waste. As we close out this school year and make plans for the next, we are excited to officially transition from styrofoam to compostable trays in the school cafeteria, and we will continue to advocate for an entirely sustainable system.

Aquaponics:

Thanks to district grants and support from Sustainable Marblehead, NGSS invested in multiple grow towers and an aquaponics system to place around the school this year. These systems grow in various MHS classrooms, and members take care of them regularly by watering and tending the plants on a daily basis. The aquaponics program enables students to learn how to test the pH levels of the water, take care of the fish that support our aquaponics system, and witness the life cycle of a modern garden. Students in our school’s cooking classes have even been able to cook with the plants that we grow, making this an all school project. Moving forward, we are excited to develop a class curriculum around the care and development of these systems, and although we had to suspend plantcare for the remainder of the school year, we cannot wait to return to our gardens in the fall!

No-Idling:

Armed with colorful posters and boundless enthusiasm, the no-idling independent project led a yearlong awareness campaign to discourage parents from running their engines while waiting to pick up their children after school. Working with Judith Black, an environmental activist and lead organizer from Sustainable Marblehead, we developed signs, digital content, and conversation starters to spread the anti-idling message. Beginning in January, we spent three days every week outside after school, walking around the parking lot with signs to discourage idling. After a final round of this campaign in March, we hoped to organize a movement of students walking, biking, and carpooling to school, but the project came to a halt when school closed. Over the summer, we plan to work with the school administration to institute a policy on student driving, so that only the students who carpool to school can park in the student parking section. We will always be concerned about idling at MHS, but in order to limit idling, we must limit driving. We are excited to work with Sustainable Marblehead to lead walk and bike-to-school campaigns so that commuting to MHS is not an excuse to pollute the environment.

Throughout this past year, we have successfully encouraged our peers to practice environmentally-friendly habits while having fun. Whether these encouragements related to waste management in the cafeteria, garden maintenance indoors, or no-idling around the parking lot, we connected with the school community in order to promote positive change. One action at a time, we served our planet, we served our student body, and we served our members, inspiring Marblehead High School to make the world green. After only one year spent fulfilling this mission, we cannot wait to continue this work.

Sophie Hauck

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