Being Green: It’s easier than you think!

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Graphics by Gillian Rush

Dark blue indicates 1, light blue is 2, dark green is 3, yellow is 4, and light green is 5.

Niki Gilman, Caroline Katz, Adi Levin, and Eli Lefcowitz

It has become apparent in recent years that many more people in the United States are becoming more aware and mindful of the environment. This is probably because despite many countries’ best efforts, the environment is still being injured by human interference.

According to theworldcounts.com, an environmental data-analyzing website, roughly 2.2 billion tons of waste are dumped into the world’s oceans each year, over one trillion plastic bags have been produced this year alone, and only about 32 percent of the world’s wild forests are left.

Much of this misfortune is due to the lives of everyday people and the economies of many cities.

In 2012, the American population discarded about 33.6 million tons of plastic, and only recycled 6.5 percent of it. Nearly 93 million tons of hazardous waste has been thrown out this year alone, and 30,000 species have gone extinct in 2017 thus far.

Measures are being taken, however, to reduce our footprint. There are electric cars to counter gas waste, recycling bins to decrease the impact of landfills and to repurpose our goods, and solar panels to utilize just one of the planet’s natural resources. How does Schreiber compare in respect to the environment?

On the surface, it appears that Schreiber is more environmentally aware than most other high schools in the area. From the countless recycling bins located in every classroom to the presence of Treehuggers, a club entirely dedicated to helping decrease Schreiber’s carbon footprint, it seems like the school is doing all it can to help save the environment. However, Schreiber still has a long way to go. There are dozens of simple tasks that have the potential to improve the environment that are completely overlooked at Schreiber.

“I would say we’re pretty average among other schools, but in terms of the country, I think every school can work harder to be more environmentally aware,” said sophomore Will Gropper.

For starters, Schreiber does not participate in “Wrap and Roll,” a program in which schools, companies, and restaurants donate their excess food to the needy.

This decreases the amount of food that winds up in landfills, as well as helping the people who do not have the means to purchase their own food.

If Schreiber were to donate even some of the food that goes to waste daily, we would have the opportunity to make significant contributions to the environment and help those in need.

“I think that Schreiber is wasting an opportunity to help out in a really small, but really significant way,” said junior Idell Rutman. “If they just donated whatever food they have left at the end of the day, they would be able to make so many lives better.”

Another detrimental contribution to the environment is that the school doesn’t turn off the lights in many big classrooms, even after hours. For example, many students have noticed that the library lights remain on well into the night, even when there is nobody using the library.

This is a cause of concern for students who would like to see Schreiber act more environmentally consciously, as turning off the lights in such a large room when it is not in use provides a simple solution to a simple problem. Making such a small change would benefit both the economy and the environment.

“It’s weird to see that when you’re walking past the school at night, the lights are on in the library,” said junior Emily Rubens. “You would think that they would at least turn off the lights at night, when nobody is using the room.”

Speaking of which, another large problem that Schreiber faces in terms of lighting is the automatic lights, which turn on when a person enters a room.

In theory, this is a positive contribution to help relieve some of the pressure put on the environment, but in reality, it does more to hurt than it does to help. Because the lights are turned on every time someone enters a room, they will go on regardless of whether someone is entering a room for a minute or for an hour.

Therefore, for every minute-long visit a person pays to a room, the lights will turn on for a pre-programmed amount of time, even if the person has already left the room.

Aside from helping make Schreiber more green, what can you do to be more environmentally conscious at home? Some of the school procedures still apply: recycle plastic, paper, and cans, use reusable water bottles and bags instead of disposable materials, print on double-sided paper, and turn off the lights when you leave the room.

However, this is far from the extent to which you can help the environment.

The average car emits 120,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year. This greenhouse gas enters the environment and traps heat, along with gases such as methane.

In order to cut back on gas usage, you can carpool with friends to get from place to place. For shorter distances, you may choose to walk or bike, especially as the weather gets warmer. There are bike racks in front of Schreiber and at the Port Washington Public Library, as well as other locations throughout Port. You can also easily lock up your bike next to a lamp post or street sign in town.

On top of the obvious, there are some less conventional but equally effective methods to be green. When you think of how to properly dispose of your garbage, separating your trash and recyclables may be the first thing that comes to mind.

However, most people don’t think to compost biodegradable waste. 220 million tons of garbage are generated in the US each year, ending up in 3,500 landfills nationwide. Composting allows the food waste that would typically go into a landfill to instead break down into nutrient rich soil and re-enter the ecosystem.

This is incredibly easy; all it takes for you to make a difference is to take an extra 30 seconds to separate your trash into another group. You can compost most things, from coffee grounds to banana peels. Just make sure not to put any eggs, meat, fish, or dairy into the compost.

Gardening is another simple way to take initiative and help our planet stay healthy. Growing food is a sustainable way to bring some fresh produce into your diet. However, food is not the only thing you can garden at home.

Household plants absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Succulents are low maintenance, as they only require water every few weeks.

Air plants are also easy to manage. All you need to do is dip them in water for a few minutes once a month so they don’t dry out. They don’t even need soil to survive! While the task of caring for plants may seem daunting, it can actually become a therapeutic part of your routine.

It’s also important to invest in the best home appliances and use them in the most efficient way. Roughly 85% of the energy used to wash laundry goes into heating up the water, so washing your clothes with cold water cuts down energy usage significantly, and this pays off in the long run.

Letting your clothes air dry on a rack or an indoor clothesline rather than using the dryer can also save energy.

Along with these appliances, you can replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs.

Costing only an average of one dollar more, these bulbs are far more efficient in producing light than incandescent bulbs. They utilize roughly 70% of the energy of traditional bulbs, and they last years longer. This investment is not only economically beneficial, but it is also significantly better for the environment.

Chipping in as an individual is essential to improving the environment, but organizations like Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington can help promote environmental reform on a broader scale.

Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington has made it their mission to promote environmental awareness in Port for over 50 years. The organization leads a number of local initiatives dedicated to beautifying the waterfront, cutting down on litter, and educating residents about the importance of protecting the environment.

One of their newest initiatives is called “Port Gives a Litter Bit.” As the name suggests, the goal of the program is to decrease the amount of litter on the streets and make Port Washington a cleaner place.

“Litter is a major problem here in Port, and we’ve really been trying to tackle that problem. It’s an issue that degrades our town and causes people to take less pride in Port Washington,” said Executive Director of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington Mindy Germain.

“Port Gives a Litter Bit” is an online campaign that encourages both students and adults to pledge to be more green in their everyday lives.

You can take the pledge online and make a promise to reduce litter, reuse bags and bottles, recycle, pick up litter, and tie garbage bags tightly.

In order to keep the movement going and reach more people in Port, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington encourage people to spread the word on Facebook by using the hashtag #pwlitterbit.

While “Port Gives a Litter Bit” is more of a long-term campaign, Residents’ other initiative is Clean Green Main Street. This annual event is held on Earth Day, and volunteers of all ages sweep sidewalks, pick up litter, plant flowers, and mulch tree beds all along Main Street.

“Clean Green Main Street is one of our biggest upcoming events. The goal is to get rid of all the debris from the winter to make everything clean for the spring,” said Germain.

All volunteers receive official certificates of Community Service from Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington and the Town of North Hempstead, providing further incentive to take part in the program. Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington works closely with the Treehuggers club to make Port more eco-friendly.

“Schreiber has one of the best environmental clubs, I’d say, in the country. They’re our basic line of communication to the students at Schreiber,” said Germain.

While the concept of environmental protection is nothing new, students are finding new ways to be eco-friendly in their everyday lives.

Even within Schreiber, there are countless ways to save resources, including energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights, and recycling. Nevertheless, there’s still room for improvement. With a collaborative effort, we can assure an abundant environment for future generations.