“We envision a school community in which sustainability drives our everyday decision-making because every member values our natural environment and is striving for a world without a climate crisis.” This is the vision of our Senior School Green Team.
The Green Team is a student-led group focused on sustainability by helping reduce the school’s ecological footprint and educating the entire school community around tackling environmental issues.
Our Green Team, along with Prefects Tessa Furey and Peter King, and teacher Sarah Beeston, hosted Senior School chapel this week, speaking eloquently and passionately about climate change and actions students can take.
Below are some combined excerpts from speeches by Grade 10 students Marina Fabris, Nekhil Govender and Torr Large; Grade 12 students Tessa Furey and Peter King; and teacher Sarah Beeston:
It has been almost a year since we stood on this stage for the first time to address SMUS’s ecological footprint.
Much has changed since then. On a global level, our peer, Greta Thunberg, is engaging world leaders and holding them accountable to make climate change a priority. The realization that urgent action is required is finally gaining momentum and we are now on the cutting edge of change.
For the Green Team, the call to step up feels stronger than ever. This year, the focus is on four key areas in our school’s sustainability: waste, transportation, and energy and water conservation.
Waste: It is the choice of each individual that will create our impact. It does not matter if we have the proper bins and education if we are making the wrong decision or being lazy by throwing our recyclables away. When I saw another student dragging a big compost bin across campus to the quad so other people were more likely to compost, I realized: Conscious choice is what makes the difference. She could have been lazy and thrown her banana peel in the garbage, but she instead she took action and did the “dirty” job. That kind of action is something to strive for if you want to create change.
Transportation: Many of us drive to school. However there are things we can do to improve sustainability. Most days I love getting my morning bike ride to school; it wakes me up, I get to smell the fresh air and I feel good about being active. During Earth Week last year, I was amazed to see all the people come out on their bikes. Imagine what it could be like if we did that more often. If biking or walking doesn’t appeal to you, consider public transit, or carpooling. If you have a friend nearby, carpooling is a great way to get some time together to talk and listen to music on the way to school, and it reduces your carbon footprint.
Energy and Water Conservation: There are already some initiatives around our school: our bathrooms have timed and motion activated water dispensing faucets, and water-free urinals. We are in the planning stages for other projects to help reduce energy and water consumption.
The choices you make around sustainability are complex, especially when they involve clashing values, like “I like to shop” or “I love to travel” versus “I want to live sustainably.” This complexity can be overwhelming and so I urge you to take one small step at a time. Some advice that I find helpful is a quote from Maya Angelou. She says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I would ask two things of all of us:
1. Be brave. Stand up and have a voice. Say what you believe to be true.
2. Bravely and honestly look at your habits. What are you doing that you “know” is not good for our planet and what are you willing to “do better” in order to help mitigate what are some pretty devastating effects of climate change.
Now is the time to take action against climate change. I’m in Grade 12 now. Next year I’ll be living on my own, and four years from that I’ll have a degree, a job, money and a vote. And you can bet that I will be using every bit of newfound power to fight climate change.