Students take on active role against WHS plastic use

AP Environmental Science students Yaas Homayounfar ‘21, Isabella Launais ‘21, Owen Kobett ‘21 and Ariana Quintana ‘21 are currently collaborating on a project with Grades of Green, an environmentally–focused organization, to reduce plastic usage on campus. 

After an application process, they were paired with Helen Lu, a representative of Grades of Green, who has acted as an advisor to help them to monitor their progress.

“Working with Grades of Green has been a really positive experience, and our advisor is always there to guide us,” said Homayounfar.

Their project was inspired by the lessons on plastic in their AP Environmental Science class. It allowed them to realize the large effects of plastic use on the environment.

“Without taking this class, we [would] not [have] realized how drastic the consequences of [plastics] can be, so we want to take action and do little things to help our community and reduce the effects,” said Launais. 

After realizing the detriments of single–use plastics, their target became the school cafeteria that utilizes single–use plastic containers to hold lunches.

Data in their pitch presentation, based upon the amount of students CVUSD calculated eat lunch daily, found that approximately 36 to 59 pounds of plastic are used in the WHS cafeteria every day. After adding this with the data from TOHS and NPHS and multiplying by the number of school days in a year, they found that around 20,700 to 31,500 pounds of plastic are used over the span of one school year between CVUSD high schools.

These calculations led Homayounfar and her group on a mission to “reduce and hopefully eliminate plastic single-use containers in the cafeteria by substituting it with biodegradable packaging.”

Beginning at WHS, they presented their replacement to the CVUSD district superintendent and board on March 3. Once their replacement is in effect, they will consistently check in with the head of the cafeteria to confirm their plan is working out. Their goal is to hopefully promote this solution throughout the district after it is successful at WHS. 

“Checking in with the cafeteria will help us see our progress on integrating biodegradable containers,” said Quintana. “We will be able to see how many plastic containers are being bought and sold.”

In order for their plan to work, they have many ideas in place to gain the support of students. Much of their idea came from observations of student behavior on campus.

“We were inspired by seeing the large amounts of plastic usage in our school and seeing how much ends [up] in trash cans rather than recycling bins,” said Launais.

Because of this, they plan to educate students on proper plastic recycling practices as well as how to limit plastic usage.

“We…intend to educate our fellow students on waste reduction and what they can do in their daily lives to reduce plastic by hosting assemblies,” said Homayounfar. “Thus, the outcome after a year should entail less polystyrene/plastic ordered and used from our school as well as a more ecologically aware student body.”

Student support can be shown by signing the petition available by speaking with any of the group members. The group hopes that tackling cafeteria plastic use will help to overall reduce the detrimental environmental impact on WHS and its students.

“We wanted to make tangible changes that could better both the environment and our school,” said Homayounfar. “The vast amounts of plastic in the cafeteria was an issue that we knew we could target.”

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