This article first appeared in the January 19th, 2012 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Christopher Bartlett
Here’s a test. First consider these two statements:
• The United States, with 5 percent of the world’s population, consumes 25 percent of the world’s resources and generates 30% of its waste.
• On average, each person in the United States is responsible for making 4 1/2 pounds of garbage each day.
Multiple-choice response: Which of the following best characterizes your reaction to those statements?
A. Resignation: “It’s a shame, but that’s just the way things are.”
B. Anger: “We really should be doing something about this.”
C. Commitment: “I’m going to help to change this terrible situation.”
Many of us have become numbed by information that regularly highlights the huge waste in our consumption-driven society. On hearing such alarming data, we find ourselves shaking our heads and tut-tutting about the deteriorating state of the world. And yet, we end up responding in categories A and B.
But the WUHS students enrolled in the school’s Conservation Leadership Institute (CLI) have reacted differently. When they saw those statistics cited in The Story of Stuff, an animated online documentary they viewed as part of their studies on sustainability, their reaction was to go for option C. And starting next week, they’re going to see what a difference they can make.
“The students began by researching the school’s existing sustainability practices, expanded into relabeling the recycling bins, and eventually decided to do a full school-wide waste audit,” said Kat Robbins, the leader of CLI, a partnership between the National Park Service and the Windsor Central Supervisory Union. “CLI emphasizes leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving, so I was delighted when they decided to find ways to reduce the amount of trash we send to the landfill.”
The effort will start on Tuesday, January 24, when volunteers will collect the trash and recycling from 95 rooms around campus. The following day, they will don rubber gloves and sort the waste in the school’s garage. They plan to enlist students from the journalism class to record all his activities on video.
By capturing the waste stream of the whole school, the project’s objective is to gather data, do analysis, and develop recommendations to raise consciousness and make changes to WUHS’s recycling guidelines and practices. The long term goal is to achieve a recycling rate of 95 percent within a year.
“The administration is very supportive of the project,” said Kat Robbins. “Al Legacy, the facilities manager, has been tremendously helpful in providing information about the school’s systems. And he’s very open to problem-solving conversations with students.”
This is a big project, and the students are looking for help. Contact Kat Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 802-760-7532. It promises to be an interesting experience. And just think of the satisfaction of being able to choose option C on the opening test!