A Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) sustainability committee, created to help BUSD become more sustainable, had its first meeting on Tuesday, October 29.
The committee is part of a new sustainability master plan released by the District in November of 2018 called “A Deeper Shade of Green.” The main goals of the plan include limiting the environmental impact of BUSD schools, educating students about the environment, and saving money. Berkeley High School (BHS) has already started making strides towards sustainability in terms of waste reduction.
Triss Williams Renard, the consultant to BUSD for the implementation of the sustainibility plan, believes that educating high schoolers about the climate crisis is extremely important. Renard hopes that increased student knowledge will end the destructive fossil fuel industry, thus eventually mitigating climate change.
According to Emilia Feria, a BHS junior, co-president of the BHS Green Team, and member of the BUSD sustainability committee, a large contributor to BHS’s carbon footprint is improper waste sorting. “Part of the reason BHS doesn’t compost and recycle as much as it could is because we don’t sort our materials properly,” she said. Feria added that the unclear labeling of waste bins in BHS classrooms is a “source of great confusion” and has led to “improper sorting and carelessness.” In an attempt to remedy this issue, BHS has added new waste stations in the courtyards.
This is in line with the District’s goal of reaching an 80 percent diversion rate in all BUSD schools by the year 2025. According to Feria, in order to raise awareness surrounding sustainability, the Green Team gives presentations to freshman English classes on “waste sorting and the responsibility to be sustainable.” In these presentations, the Green Team “highlights the importance of sustainability and its impact on the Berkeley High community as well as the world in general,” said Feria.
Other changes will also be made to BHS in the coming years in order to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. “The plan will affect the development and construction of new buildings, environmental science curriculum, [and] the method students use to travel to school and the amount of waste produced on campus [at BHS],” said BUSD Sustainability Coordinator Sofia Peltz.
The creation of the Sustainability Committee is part of a larger movement within BUSD to become more environmentally friendly. “A greener campus will not only be more enjoyable and inspiring for students, but will be healthier for the greater community, mitigate climate change, and create cost savings which can be reinvested in students’ education,” said Renard.
The BUSD Sustainability Committee will focus on developing the nine main objectives of the plan: water, food, waste, energy, transportation, green buildings and materials, eco-literacy, and nature-based learning. These objectives work together to create a comprehensive outline for achieving sustainability.
“The goal is to achieve a better, more sustainable future for our students. The Sustainability Committee will develop the objectives that will help us achieve these goals,” said Peltz. Peltz added that the committee will be made up of a “balanced group of individuals, including teachers, students, parents, and professional experts.”
Williams Renard emphasized the importance of student involvement in the fight for climate justice, and said, “Hopefully, BHS students will feel they have the opportunity to effect positive and lasting change, and help influence and processes the infrastructure starting to change around them.”