The United States Green Buildings Council runs the Green Schools Quest. One of the main facets of the competition is the equal budget for all schools competing in the quest so that better-endowed schools cannot outspend lesser-endowed schools. SLUH was given $250 and tasked with creating an effective, sustainable impact that is cost-efficient both now and down the road.
SLUH won third place based on their educational video, designs for educational signage, and paper about the problems at SLUH and the club’s goals both currently and in the future. The club also wants to implement the educational videos into Freshman Orientations along with Sophomore, Junior, and Senior class meetings in order to combat the issue of food waste at SLUH.
“(One of our main goals was) to just make better signage for the bins so that people know which one is which and what goes where,” said senior Sam Heagney. “We also aimed to make a video that would be given at Freshman Orientation so that as soon as students come into the school they know how the recycling, compost, and waste system at SLUH works, so that we won’t have these problems over four years.”
The club used data from previous years’ AP Environmental Science labs, in which the students sorted through each bin in the Commons to see how well their peers were recycling, composting, and sending waste to the landfill. The data from these labs, along with data from a school-wide survey on food waste sent out last spring, helped the club gauge the size of the problem at SLUH.
Along with their data analysis and video work, the Sustainability Club also teamed up earlier this year with Student Council to create homeroom presentations to spark interest in the club and inform the student population of the goals of Sustainability. They also established a core group of students along with moderator Anne Marie Lodholz—called the “green crew”—that would stand at waste bins in the Commons and tell students in which bins their waste should go.
“There is confusion among SLUH (students) on where to put things,” said junior Sam Chechik. “These homeroom presentations and the lunch guys were combatting that.”
Despite the efforts of the Sustainability Club, many problems persist with students putting their trash in the incorrect bin. Every time a compost bin at SLUH is contaminated, the composting company fines the school three dollars. The contamination of a compost bin can be as simple as putting one plastic bag in the bin. The composting company does not typically fine users on each contaminated compost bin; however, the SLUH community has contaminated so many compost bins that the company implemented a system of fines for the school.
“I’m excited about this year’s project because I think there’s the potential to continue integrating it in the future,” said Lodholz.
The group’s work in previous years has been similarly successful. In 2014, the club used its $250 budget to buy insulation for pipes in the J-wing basement at SLUH. The project’s tangibility and effectiveness pushed SLUH to a second place finish in 2014. Because of the insulation, the group estimated that the pipe insulation would save SLUH about $5,000 in energy costs over the course of a year.
In the future, Lodholz wants the club to educate students further and to get out in front of the problem in order be proactive instead of reactive. Lodholz also wants to continue to work on food waste at SLUH throughout next year.
“This year, we always felt like we were playing catch up—we screw up, how do we fix it,” said Lodholz. “What we’d like to do is to go into next year with that integrated institutionally.”
The group was notified of its third place finish on April 12. The club will receive both a trophy and a cash award of $250 for its performance. The prizes will be awarded to the group at a later date.
“It was nice to finally go out successfully because I’ve been on the club for years and we’ve done great work, but the projects have never fully manifested,” said Heagney. “To have something tangible—such as a trophy or a check—was a nice way to end my sustainability career.”