As a culture, we often forget that there are multiple ways to view issues and multiple ways to solve a problem. Each perspective and idea has its own validity. By seeing things from other’s points of view, we can work together to solve our most daunting problems. However, the following is a major current dilemma: How can we blend different solutions and outlooks to achieve the shared goal and common good?
Here at Peninsula High School, the shared goal of students, teachers, and district personnel is to expand our recycling program to better serve our environment and community. While there are many different approaches to this task, there is a unanimous agreement that something needs to be done.
“There’s a lot of potential for more recycling and we need to do it,” PHS principal Dave Goodwin said.
Right now, the recycling program at PHS isn’t exactly a standout. It’s mediocre at best, with paper recycling bins in classrooms and one dumpster (payed for by the district) behind the cafeteria. Despite these facts, there is a growing energy from within the school to improve recycling.
However, it’s difficult to take that energy and immediately turn it into a greener and more effective recycling program. First we will need to overcome obstacles standing in our way.
From Peninsula School District’s standpoint, many factors have to be taken into account. The district only has so much room in its budget, and it already pays for a recycling dumpster at each school ($2100 a month combined). Of course, the district officials want to promote recycling, but there is no encompassing policy set in place. Instead, each school is in control of creating and administering its own recycling and environmental programs.
“We just don’t have a district wide policy,” PSD Director of Facilities Patrick Gillespie said.
Gillespie explains that the success of recycling within each school is really up to that school’s culture and whether or not there are people strongly pushing for better waste management there. This is an issue for most schools, as there’s a lack of individuals eager to take on the task of generating an efficient and well-adjusted recycling program.
“It takes that core person or group in a school that makes the effort to promote it within the school,” Gillespie said.
The other perspective on this issue comes from that of students and teachers. They generally see recycling as an aesthetically appealing solution and a booster to the community. It can be easy to forget about the cost that a good recycling program can rack up, an important factor that the district has to be aware of.
“Again, there are two ways to look at it,” PHS science teacher Jim Mills said.
Within the school, however, individuals hold share the belief of the district; individuals and groups dedicated to helping the environment and to recycling need to be in place, and a green-centered culture needs to be established.
Last spring, Mills and Keegan Burmark, a fellow science teacher, met with the district to discuss PHS’s future with recycling. They came up with two possible ways to better the recycling program at PHS.
One, to employ a constant custodial staff in charge of handling recyclables. This, of course, is the ideal solution. However, it will take a lot of money and is unrealistic at this time.
The other proposal for expanding the recycling program is to create a culture within the school that promotes recycling and green waste management. Obviously, this is the more realistic approach to expand the program. If the culture expands and recycling really does take off, then it might be possible to more easily reduce our carbon footprint in the future.
In order to expand the program, Burmark holds that “students should be doing the promoting” of recycling within PHS. To further push the recycling movement, Burmark urges students “…to speak to the district office; they will actually listen to student voices.”
A number of people within PHS have taken to this idea and have started to grow a more environmentally concerned culture.
Mills is the administrator of the Environmental Club, a group of PHS kids dedicated to serving the environment. Club members have a series of projects and ideas lined up to help reduce PHS’s impact on the environment. These include a water-bottle filling station (to help reduce usage of plastic water bottles), a local adopt-a-road campaign, and several ideas concerning recycling.
“We handle all the recycling except in the classrooms,” Jacob Conn, president of the Environmental Club, says. “We’re just getting the school to be more knowledgeable about recycling and more conscious about it”.
Mills explains that they are very interested in recycling high value items such as plastics, aluminum cans, and other items that won’t decompose quickly in dumps, like paper. The club wants to create a culture in which students and teachers throw their recyclables into the correct bin and “think before they toss”.
Principal Goodwin is also a major player in terms of growing the school’s culture. He believes that every individual plays an important role in creating an environmentally friendly school and that students should participate in expanding recycling at PHS.
“This would be neat if more kids wanted to take ownership too, because I think, really, this is your school, and yes, there’s 70 staff members, but we have 1400 kids, and it would make a huge difference if we had a group of kids that really took leadership in this too and wanted to push recycling. That would make a big difference, I think,” Goodwin said.
The rapid change of the global climate is now a fact, not an opinion. The huge problem of the world’s increasing environmental problems is directly linked to human activities. It is also a fact that if nothing is done to address this issue, climate change will produce disastrous results. Recycling at PHS can be the easiest way for students and teachers to help save the planet. If the people of PHS come together and put their minds to it we can come together as a school and ensure that every individual and every action counts in the recycling system. Although the school is definitely beginning to take responsibility in decreasing its carbon footprint in the world by increasing its recycling endeavors, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“It will be your generation paying for it,” says Burmark. “You will be the ones dealing with it.”
Are you up to the challenge?