Nature’s Desperate Call to Action

By Rachel Schneider

Global air temperatures have risen about 1.4°F since 1880, sea ice has melted several inches in recent years, and CO₂ emissions have nearly doubled in the past 50 years. Throughout my three years at South Middle School, I can remember the significant emphasis our teachers and administration put on motivating students to be environmentally friendly. From the celebration of Earth Week when the front hallway was transformed into a biome, school-wide recycling competitions, and lectures in our health classes by local experts, there was endless programing to incorporate environmental consciousness into our everyday lives. Why did all of this come to a screeching halt once we entered high school? Maybe we have outgrown some of the more juvenile initiatives, but that does not mean students should altogether disregard protecting our environment.
While taking environmental science last year, my eyes were opened to the concerning rate at which we as humans are damaging our environment. I believe that as South High students, we are unfortunately not doing our part in preserving our Earth. If not for this class, I would have been completely unaware of the problems we are creating for ourselves through our everyday activities. We need to be informing and educating our students to make better choices; the lack of knowledge many students possess on this subject is an unnoticed problem that our school faces.
While the Great Neck Schools have taken a big step towards a more environmentally friendly way of teaching with the iPads, paper is not the only thing we should be conserving to help our environment. This is only one small step in the right direction; our school can be doing so much more to make a difference.
Several years ago each classroom was given a recycling bin for paper and a bottle recycling bin was placed in each hallway. Today many bins are nowhere to be found, as many classes are missing them. Furthermore, as you look around at your classmates, you may also notice that a majority of the school uses plastic Poland Spring water bottles, which end up overflowing the trash bins throughout the school. This is not only a huge environmental issue, but a health risk as well, as there are harmful chemicals such as BPA’s used in the production of the plastic. Furthermore, our school should be investing in eco-friendly school supplies such as reusable dry erase markers.
The cafeteria is another place where we are harming our environment. Our school accumulates a huge amount of food waste as we throw out half eaten lunches straight into the garbage.
The amazing clubs at South do a spectacular job at representing every nationally recognized day, yet where is Earth Day on the list of our school’s programs? Every year we have assemblies to teach students valuable life lessons, yet never have we had an environmental assembly or guest speaker from that domain.
All of the ways in which we are not being sustainable can be easily fixed with simple solutions. The cafeteria is just one place in our school that we can make these minor changes that can have a tremendous impact. Did you know our school has a composting bin outside of the cafeteria? I definitely did not. Very simply, the bin could be placed next to the garbage bins in the cafeteria and every day it could be emptied outside to compost. The newly created soil could be utilized and repurposed for the greenhouse and various landscaping needs on campus. The lack of recycling bins in our classrooms can easily be remedied with some new ones as well. Next year why not have a guest speaker make a presentation about ways in which we can help our environment? In addition to offering food prizes for various school related competitions, give away reusable water bottles and create high school student worthy incentives to purchase them. All of these programs should be widely advertised and promoted for active participation from the students.
There is no reason why our school should not be promoting more sustainable practices and arming students with the knowledge to make better choices. It is time to make some adjustments in our school that will allow us to maintain our environment for years to come, especially since these adjustments are so simple to make.