By Luci Johnston (’22), Amanda Rogers (’25), Saumya Soni (’22), and the Environmental Club
SUSTAINABILITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN part of Eastside Prep’s roots and its mission of creating a better world. From surveys and conversations with students and teachers, the Environmental Club has learned that reducing our impact and living in harmony with the environment are community priorities. However, this can be difficult to achieve with real-life demands. The goal of the Environmental Club is to bridge the gap between what the community hopes to see and what is possible to accomplish. Currently, the Club is leading a couple of new projects and trying to generate some momentum around sustainability. EPS doesn’t yet have a sustainability page on the website, an Upper School Environmental Science class, or a sustainability coordinator (like there is for EICL, for example). Seeing these areas for improvement, a group of students created the Environmental Club as a space to promote sustainability in the school, and to give the Earth a voice in the school’s conversations.
The Environmental Club has been working to create opportunities for students to get involved in sustainable activities. The Club held its first Sustainable Transportation Day in October, encouraging students and faculty to travel to school in eco-friendly ways. People were encouraged to think about how they get to school and whether they can make it more sustainable. Could they bike, walk, carpool, take the bus, or maybe drive an electric car? In order to gauge how many people participated, the Environmental Club sent out a survey asking people how they got to school and whether they had any thoughts on how to improve the process. This led to some thoughtful conclusions on how people could reduce their impact on the climate. One Middle School student reported that she changed her morning routine to carpool with an older sibling. A teacher said they wished they could take the bus to school every day, but had to drop their child off at daycare. Because of Sustainable Transportation Day, community members were prompted to think of ways to be more environmentally conscious on a daily basis, whether or not they ultimately had the opportunity to change their behavior. After the Club received almost a hundred responses to their survey, it created an art installation using bottle caps and reused materials that displays the data they collected on transportation methods. This poster, displayed in the TALI atrium, prompted even more questions about sustainability. By the time you read this, the Club hopes to have held a couple more warm-weather Sustainable Transportation Days, allowing the community to get engaged in positive environmental action.
EVEN THOUGH OUR EPS CARBON OFFSETS ARE SMALL IN COMPARISON TO THE REST OF THE WORLD, IT IS IMPORTANT TO ENCOURAGE THE NEXT GENERATION TO SPEAK UP AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
When the Club’s current seniors were freshmen, they started a project to reduce EPS’s carbon emissions. A school like EPS generates emissions from many places: heating and air conditioning, transportation, cooking and acquiring food, etc. The Environmental Club chose to focus on EBC trips as a starting point because those trips generate a lot of conversation, and Club members anticipated that people would be more aware of the project if it started out by offsetting carbon emissions from these trips. EBC is a great jumping-off point for reducing EPS’s overall carbon emissions because EBC has a relatively large carbon footprint, and depending on the trip, one might travel by way of plane, bus, or van, or be involved in other carbon-intensive activities. By helping this valuable educational experience become more sustainable (and in turn more educational through its increased sustainability), the Club is making a positive impact on the community.
So how do people offset the emissions from EBC trips? The Environmental Club calculated the amount of carbon dioxide produced per person each mile traveled by plane or bus, and how many trees have to be planted to recapture that carbon from the atmosphere. This year and last year, each EBC participant had the option to pay a little extra to offset their trip. Depending on how much support the program gains this year (how many people contribute), EPS may decide to offset all trips, and then the community will have the opportunity to reimburse them. To do the offsets, EPS will be partnering with Eden Reforestation Projects, located in Madagascar. Eden works to help local people plant trees in their own communities, providing income and stability for themselves as they protect the trees. Eden is planning to plant over eighty million trees next year, some of which will be funded by EPS through our carbon offset project!
Offsetting EPS trips and the carbon released throughout the entire school is a miniscule component compared to carbon released across the rest of the world, but it is important to remember where this carbon is coming from within our school. EPS is, of course, a learning environment. How better to encourage students to think about their own impacts on the world than to model sustainability at the school? Moreover, in our society today, students are taught that institutions change slowly and are unwilling to make the necessary systemic changes to fight climate change. To encourage a new generation of students to be active thinkers and improvers in the world, they should grow up in an institution willing to embrace new ideas and change. Even though our EPS carbon offsets are small in comparison to the rest of the world, it is important to encourage the next generation to speak up and make a difference. The point is that young people can see how ideas proposed by other young people have improved the institutions around them. Community members—parents, students, and trip leaders—can have the opportunity to see the cause and effect behind their choices. Longer flights means more carbon dioxide emitted—is there a way to improve this? Can EPS keep the exhilarating adventures while increasing