Anjani Waters ‘23
With the school year starting and students' schedules becoming more and more crammed, it can be easy to forget about the world around you. But taking care of the environment is more important than ever and there are so many simple ways to help out!
I spoke with Dr. Sidle and Meghan McCue ‘22, who head the Environmental Club here at SSSAS, and they provided insight into what the club will be focusing on this year and what our school community can do to help. The main issues that they are concerned about are recycling, compost, overfishing, local areas, and educating the school community. The club also hopes to educate students and faculty about what waste goes in which bins. Composting has become increasingly important and many people do not know what can and cannot be composted. In regards to our school lunch waste, Sage is providing mostly compostable bags, but SSSAS has not yet paired with a composting company that is able to compost these bags. Christina Graham who is a Buildings and Grounds Program Coordinator at SSSAS is working on pairing us with a compost company along with many other environmental endeavours across all three campuses. Graham came to the Upper School campus so I could talk to her about compost and how it is coming along in the SSSAS community.
I spoke to Ms. Graham to better understand what is going on in the school in regards to compost and recycling. She told me we used to compost on campus before the pandemic, but when students stopped eating on campus in March 2020, the school no longer needed to pair with a compost company. Before SSSAS just jumps back into composting again, Graham says, “Now that it’s changed a little bit, the dining practices, we wanna be sure we’re being thoughtful about how we implement the (composting) program again.”
Pairing with a compost company includes a lot more logistics than it might seem. This means the school needs to decide how many compost bins to place around the school and where to put them along with updated marketing so students and faculty are well informed about what can and cannot be composted. If people contaminate the compost or recycling, it can ruin the whole batch, so the education piece of this process is essential. Graham hopes that the waste education students learn here they will bring with them home and be conscious of waste on and off school grounds. Graham recognizes composting is, “not intuitive, so you know you almost have to have a list in front of you and...we’re trying to make this as easy as possible for people to do it.” Hopefully, composting at SSSAS will be up and running soon, if you’d like to learn more about composting there’s a link at the bottom of this article with information about composting in Alexandria.
Because of the lack of knowledge about composting, the Environmental Club hopes to inform people with posters throughout the year. Another issue with composting is the need for compost bins throughout the school. Meghan says “I really do think we need compost stuff outside, especially for when it’s so nice out.” Because students eat lunch all around the school community, it is less likely that they will return to the dining hall to dispose of their compost. Meghan continued by saying “It's unfortunate but people want to litter and do the wrong stuff when you don’t have easy access to it(the proper waste bin).”
When speaking to Dr. Sidle, he agreed with Meghan and said “I would say, the most practical thing that I hope we (the Environmental Club) are gonna work on is composting. Recycling...has just become dumb.” He went on to explain that you can find plastic water bottles from the US in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Because of lack of knowledge on proper recycling, a lot of plastic waste ends up in landfills and the wrong places so composting is the best option in terms of waste disposal.
The Environmental Club hopes to place more compost bins throughout the school to encourage proper composting along with stream cleans and little fundraisers. Meghan said “a big focus of ours is going to be local areas, we want to do a lot of stream cleanups and go to places like Jones Point park or places on the GW parkway...another thing that we definitely are gonna want to focus on is overfishing.” Another concern of the Environmental Club is the issue of overfishing. Overfishing is exactly what it sounds like, catching too many fish at a time which is super harmful to marine life. It catches tons of unwanted fish too which are later discarded. Companies who overfish are also known to kill bigger fish like dolphins and sharks to increase the population of smaller fish. Meghan wants to fundraise this year to support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They are dedicated to protecting the environment, take boats to prevent overfishing, and are police of the sea for fish lives. Meghan hopes the club can have a pizza sale this year and donate profits to Sea Shepherd to help preserve ocean life.
As members of the Saints community, there are so many little ways we can help out our environment! Even the little things can make a huge impact on saving our earth. Some suggestions Meghan had were: turn off light switches when you leave a room, get a reusable water bottle opposed to a plastic one, pay attention to where you are putting your trash (can it be recycled or composted?), do not idol in your car, carpool, and simply educate yourself! Taking the time to consider and observe these little things can make a big difference. If you are looking for even more ways to support the earth and environment, you should consider a plant based diet whether that is pescaterian, vegetarian, vegan, or even just being more conscious of where you are getting your animal meat from. Another great way you can help the environment is by getting involved with the Environmental Club or even leading your own cleanup.
Resources to learn more about waste locally: