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South View student environmental group tackles recycling for year-long project

Nov. 15 is National Recycling Day! 

Nov. 14, 2016

sveg “I think the environment needs a lot of help.” That opinion, shared by a member of the South View Environmental Group (SVEG), is what moves 18 students to meet twice each week during advisory to brainstorm ideas on ways to inform and change the habits of their peers in ways that are Earth-friendly.

The group is student-led, with guidance from advisors Matt Pearson, South View instrumental music teacher, and Gretchen Lund, English learner program coordinator for the district. “There is lots of student initiative in this group,” said ninth grader Chloe who was the appointed spokesperson for the group. She is in her third year with SVEG. “Any change that is accomplished by this group is done by the students.”

This year they are building on some research they conducted which focused on improving recycling efforts at South View. Last year, several SVEG members donned rubber gloves and delved into the murky remnants of a recycling bag following a lunch period. “We wanted to see how accurately people were disposing of their waste,” Chloe explained. Her SVEG colleagues commented that the work was “gross,” “disgusting,” and “hard to look at.” But they learned a lot. “We found that the recycling in the cafeteria is not going well,” Chloe said.

This year, the group will work on educating students and staff about the importance of proper sorting of waste. “If non-recycling stuff gets thrown in the recycling bin it can clog the machines at the waste plant,” Chloe said. “If there is too much of the wrong stuff in the recycling bin, the whole bin gets thrown in the trash and none of it gets recycled.” The students believe that with more information, everyone will have a better understanding of what should be in the recycling bin and will hopefully take the time to do the right thing.

“Some people don’t care or they don’t think it won’t hurt if they throw this one thing in recycling even though it may not belong in there,” said a SVEG member. “But if everyone thinks that way it adds up.” The students said one thing to know is that if you don’t know if an item is recyclable, you should throw it in the trash rather than risk ruining the recycling bin with wrong materials.

SVEG is thinking of ways to “incentivize” students to recycle by possibly creating a recognition system for those who make the effort. And they are working with the building’s custodial staff to get more recycling bins so that every classroom is able to provide an outlet for recyclable materials.

In addition to this large group effort, SVEG members are working on other projects in smaller groups. A group of five students are researching the white nose syndrome that is plaguing the bat population, looking for way to educate others and support work to find a cure; four others are looking to raise awareness of colony collapse among bees; another group is hoping to plant a pollinator garden in the spring to support bees and butterflies; and still others are looking beyond local environmental concerns and are investigating ways to support the work of Mission Blue, an oceanic preservation effort.

“This is a good group of people,” Chloe said of the SVEG membership, “and we are passionate about environmental issues.”