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Welcome to Environmental High

Beginning this week is a series about the efforts being made by Sequim students to reduce their ecological impact in the area and world and promote sustainability by going "green." This week focuses on groups at Sequim High School.

Students face big environmental issues now and in the upcoming years. A group of proactive and ecologically conscious students is pounding the pavement to let others know about "going green" at Sequim High School.

Advocates including Alisa Lee, president of Student Political Awareness, led the Earth Week committee in motivating students to donate change to buy four trees in the Amazon Rain Forest and to bring another tree to the SHS campus.

Lee and her group plan an advertising campaign to let classmates know that they can recycle not only aluminum cans but also newspaper, plastic and glass.

The school has eight bins for recyclables around campus. Students requested two recycling bins be placed at the soccer fields because school-sponsored and junior teams threw away many recyclables.

Lee also made signs to be placed above light switches in every classroom districtwide saying, "Please turn off the lights." The school district maintenance department will distribute the signs. Signs will be placed above the recycle bins promoting the mixed recycling.

"It just takes time and effort and starting young to make an impact," Lee said.

Jennifer Van De Wege, student leadership adviser, said the student leaders are surprising her with their ideas and dedication.

"It's amazing what they accomplish," Van De Wege said.

She said their efforts already are making an impact.

"Just across the board, the movement to recycle is running deeper," Van De Wege said. "I almost never see people throwing away paper."

Student Lyndsey Soha wanted to get involved because she realized how much she was wasting when she bought coffee every morning. She saw she could do things differently by reusing a mug and so could others in the school.

"A lot of people don't even have recycling in their common routine here," said student Hannah Stephens. "Maybe all it takes is one high school student standing up and striving to be green."

Stephens said her family has changed their mind-set because of her suggestions. They have reduced their trash usage from three bags to only one every two weeks.

"It's difficult because we didn't grow up recycling. We hope it will trickle up to our parents and family," said student body president Olivia Boots.

"It's difficult to change where we get our resources, like our reliance on coal, ... but Sequim does well. We can influence the peninsula and work together with other schools to make more change."

"We want to have a global impact and that's why we are buying trees in the Amazon," Lee said.

The students are contemplating other methods of spreading the word. Selling homemade organic bracelets was just one of many ideas mentioned.

"Overall, I think Sequim is moving toward a more eco-friendly mind-set," Lee said.

Some eco-friendly foundations already are in place to promote student recycling. The Life Skills class, a hands-on learning environment for special needs students, has been recycling at the high school for five years. A small team of students works with trainers to pick up the entire high school's recycling from cans once a week.

"I think it's excellent that the students are taking pride in their campus, learning a skill, working together and how to follow directions," said Barbara Cooper, a Life Skills teacher.

Rief is part of People First, a self-advocacy group that promotes independence. Students in the group sweep the entire campus once a month to help pick up trash.

Only older and more physically able students are allowed to do the programs. No money comes back

into the programs from

the recycling.

"It's just a service encouraging everyone to think green," said Louise Chitwood, Life Skills teacher.

Maintenance supervisor John McAndie said it will take a joint effort by everyone in the schools to continue the trend in reducing waste.

"Basically, if we make it aware that it can happen, then it will, he said.

"We are all consumers and we have to know how to deal with the product."



Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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