Climate change is an urgent issue, and Berkeley High School students must do their part. During the school day, it can be hard to think about the environment, but as young people, our generation will have to deal with the consequences of global warming later in life. While corporations are mainly responsible for emissions and environmental degradation, individual actions and awareness still matter. Small actions can make a big difference in helping the environment, and students’ choices right now can impact our planet in big ways.
Walking, biking, and taking public transportation to school are some ways BHS students can help the environment. Students who take other methods of transportation than driving help the planet because driving burns gasoline and diesel and creates harmful gasses. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. If every BHS student chose not to drive to school, there would be far less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Taking the extra bit of time to compost food waste is also a great way to help prevent climate change. There are a good amount of composting bins on campus, but once students leave campus, there are far fewer composting bins and many more garbage cans. As many students leave campus for lunch, their food waste often is not properly disposed of. Sophia Nishioka, a sophomore at BHS said, “Sometimes after I get food from going out, I just throw it away even though it could be composted because I just can’t find a recycling or compost can.” Unless students carry their leftovers and containers back to school, their waste is most likely going to end up in a trash can. Food scraps that end up in landfills are very harmful to the environment and create a greenhouse gas called methane. Methane is responsible for 25 percent of global warming and is 80 times more harmful than CO2. Even though it’s inconvenient, students putting in the extra effort to take their leftovers and containers back to school to compost their food waste would be very beneficial to the environment.
Another effective way students could reduce their carbon footprint is to recycle more. In class, many students use paper handouts, printed module packets, lined paper, and all types of different workbooks. Students should recycle their old papers and make sure they do not end up in landfills because paper contains harmful toxins when not disposed of properly. Paper contains chemicals such as dioxins and furans that leak into the soil at landfills and pollute the earth.
Recycling paper is extremely helpful, but reusing paper can make even more of a difference. “I also use my old papers as scratch paper to not make more waste,” said Nishioka. Every time a student reuses paper, they are saving more trees from being cut down. According to the World Wildlife Federation, forest damage and loss accounts for 10 percent of global warming, and up to 15 billion trees are still cut down every year. Trees are incredibly crucial to the environment as they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and produce the oxygen everyone needs to breathe.
However, even with individual action, big industrial companies continue to produce vast amounts of greenhouse gasses. One example is the Chevron refinery located in Richmond, close to BHS. It is the second largest carbon emissions producer in all of California and, in one year alone, produced over four million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Even though it’s not BHS students’ fault that some companies, like Chevron, are polluting the environment, students still have the opportunity to help fix these issues. Students have the power to lobby and attempt to force companies to cut their carbon emissions. Students also can try get people to boycott harmful businesses.
If BHS students want to get even more involved in preventing climate change, there are numerous environmental groups they can join. BHS has several climate-related clubs, such as the BHS Sunrise Club and the BHS Green Team. Additionally, multiple organizations such as Youth vs Apocalypse and Bay Area Youth Climate Summit exist within the Bay Area and focus on preventing climate change. Joining a group or a club can not only strengthen a student’s environmental impact but also help them find community.
In addition to students becoming more eco-friendly, BHS as a whole should focus on this goal. Berkeley High School should spend more time informing students about climate change and different actions they can take to prevent it. Even a quick unit in class can inspire students to take action and help them make more environmentally conscious decisions. If every BHS student started making small changes in their life, taking alternative transportation methods, disposing of their waste properly, and recycling old school materials, the BHS community could greatly contribute to preventing climate change. Now is the time for every student to do their part and make a difference.