The Environmental Club Pursues New Initiatives at Stuyvesant

The Environmental Club and its subsidiary, the Green Team, have taken steps toward making a more aware and educated student body along with a cleaner school through the annual Earth Day Fair, the new recycling station grading system, and other projects.

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Members of the Environmental Club have started a number of schoolwide environmental initiatives aimed at creating a greener and cleaner school. Recently, they hosted this year’s seventh annual Earth Day Fair and introduced new projects like the new recycling stations. Urban Ecology and biology teacher Marissa Maggio, who supervises both the Environmental Club and the Green Team alongside AP Environmental Science teacher Jerry Citron, oversaw the fair and the projects and made sure that they came to fruition.

The Environmental Club is a service club that carries out work in and outside of school to raise environmental awareness by maintaining the rooftop garden and taking part in the Billion Oyster Project, which aims to restore oyster populations in New York Harbor. “The whole point of the Environmental Club is just to get urban kids in contact with nature and to start actively working to make New York City a better place to live,” Maggio said. The club has a cabinet that leads the organization, whose members include junior and president Kenny Wong, sophomore and vice president Yifan Wang, sophomore and secretary Julia Hart, and sophomore and secretary Kristie Chu.

The Green Team, which is a small branch of the Environmental Club, was formed this spring as a result of a project created by the New York City Department of Sanitation and the Mayor's Office of Sustainability. This initiative, called the Zero Waste program, aims for New York City public schools to produce zero waste by 2030. “The Green Team’s [purpose] is to come up with initiatives and programs […] to get more recycling and [create less waste] within the building,” Maggio said. She recruited members for the Green Team from the Environmental Club and AP Environmental classes, and reached out to the entire student body through e-mail as well. The Green Team will continue working next year; however, there is discussion regarding whether or not they will become a separate organization or remain as a part of the Environmental Club.

The team chose a recycling theme for the seventh annual Earth Day Fair held on April 20. “[The Earth Day Fair] is one of the few days during the year where we can perform outreach and access all the students in the school to show them all the important issues,” Hart said. “We wanted to educate our school on a wider scale, because at any other point in the year we’re limited to educating only those that are a part of our club.” The objective of the fair was to teach the student body about their environmental initiatives. There were games and activities such as recycled arts and crafts which served to portray the importance of these projects in a creative fashion.

The club organized several events during Earth Week, including a presentation from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The presenter came in to talk about the history of trash in New York City and the redevelopment of the Fresh Kills Landfill, which holds the majority of our trash. “[The landfill] has been completely redeveloped into one of New York City’s largest new parks since the 19th century,” Maggio said. The end of construction and unveiling of the park is predicted to be in 2030, though parts of the park will slowly be opened to the public before then.

One of the Environmental Club’s most significant projects is the school’s rooftop garden, which was established four years ago. The development of the garden was a joint effort between the club members and Maggio. “They wanted to have a garden for a long time, and I just found the place where they could do it,” she said. The club also maintains a plot down at Battery Urban Farm. “We get to be outside and harvest our vegetables [...] it’s always my favorite part of the spring and summer,” Maggio said. Last year, the club grew crops such as tomatoes, carrots, and squash. This year, they are expanding their options to include onions, corns, and daffodils. Members who visit over the summer to help harvest get to bring the food home. However, Maggio hopes that the food will be able to make its way into the cafeteria one day.

The Green Team also implemented a system to encourage better sorting of garbage and waste by giving the recycling bins grades. “We put up ‘grade pending’ signs, like what New York City uses to grade restaurants, and the students from the Green Team created a rubric for the grading stations. During Earth Week, we went around the recycling stations on all ten floors and graded them based on how the sorting [was done],” Maggio said. The rubric consisted of grades of A,B, C, and F, and the stations are graded twice a week at different times. “We’re hoping to see if grading [the bins] will affect students’ behaviors,” Maggio continued.

Though many green initiatives have been started in the past few years, Maggio believes that there are still several environmental issues at Stuyvesant. “We waste electricity, run water, leave garbage everywhere, [and] don’t recycle, despite having stations everywhere to recycle,” she said.

“I’d like to not see Starbucks cups in their classroom garbage can when there is a green bin four feet away. [People are] leaving cafeteria food in the middle of the hallway, or dumping all of the cafeteria food in one bin instead of sorting it into the three bins. That’s the biggest problem right now.”

Though it is the end of the year, the club still has upcoming events. The Green Team presented their initiatives on May 18 at the second annual Department of Education Sustainability Showcase at St. Francis College. Additionally, the club will elect the 2018-2019 cabinet during the the Environmental Club Cabinet Elections on May 29.

The Environmental Club has clear goals for the coming year. “[The goals are] definitely [increasing] recycling and emphasizing the fact that we need to take what we’re using already and not throw it away,” Hart said. Creating an atmosphere where people are more open to solving these problems and making change is also something they have been working to achieve. “It’s a matter of creating a culture in which it’s important or it’s valued to take care of the building that you’re in, or the planet we live on,” Maggio said.