Environmental protection club heats up

In a time where teens often hear news detailing the environment and its ever-changing state, a group of students have taken it upon themselves to spread awareness of these topics at CESJDS by participating in the environmental protection club, otherwise known as the green team.

Over the past two years, with help from the club, the JDS administration has made several significant changes in effort to make more environmentally-conscious decisions. Two automatic water bottle filling stations have been added in the school, saving thousands of plastic water bottles to date. New recycling bins have also been introduced, encouraging students to think carefully before discarding their waste. 

The environmental protection club has steadily gained popularity at JDS since its inception, with approximately 10 members participating in each meeting. Founded by seniors Addie Bard and Dora Mendelson at the start of the 2017-2018 school year, the club meets on Tuesdays during lunch and works toward bringing school-wide awareness to issues affecting the environment. 

Club members held a week-long social media conservation contest during the week of Dec. 17-21 where participants completed challenges throughout the day that encouraged them to be more environmentally conscious. Freshman Talia Jacobson, for example, took photos and videos of what she did to produce less waste, and was voted the winner by leaders of the environmental protection club.

“Winning the contest was a big accomplishment for me and it encouraged me to try to keep this up in the future,” Jacobson said.

While the club is trying to educate the student body on environmental issues, the administration has not created a specific action plan to address the concern. 

On Oct. 9, the JDS administration released a strategic plan detailing the school’s basic financial outline for the future. The document did not address any plans to implement new environmental initiatives. 

Chief Financial Officer Julie Hoover noted that while there is not a sizeable budget for environmental ventures due to keeping tuition costs as low as possible, the school has taken action in efforts to go green. Recently, all lights on both campuses were replaced with LED bulbs. According to Hoover, this update, coupled with asking teachers to turn off the lights when not in class, saved JDS over $30,000 in just one year. 

“There are so many things we can do to help the environment that don’t even cost money,” Hoover said. 

Members of the environmental protection club, disappointed by the omission, met with High School Principal and Associate Head of School Dr. Marc Lindner to discuss their hopes for the future.

During this meeting, the club leaders proposed measures ranging from automatic hand dryers in the bathrooms to solar panels on the roof. They were told that the school did not have the budget to implement major changes, but the administration is willing to hear more cost-effective plans. 

One idea Lindner believes that JDS could accommodate is a compost system. He noted that the school has already approved composting in a community garden near the Rocking Horse Center, where the school holds its evacuation drills. Lindner explained that it is just a matter of logistics and organization that dictate when the school actually begins composting there. 

“With the composting, this predates my time at JDS, I understand now that this has been something that has been raised and been discussed before I arrived here,” Lindner said. “Composting is definitely not a closed issue. The latest consideration was the community garden that is close by … the challenge with that is just getting compost from here to there on a regular basis.” 

While Lindner says he is open to having discussions with students about possible plans for the future, many students believe that the school has a responsibility to initiate some action and show commitment towards implementing their ideas. 

Even though budgeting may be one of the most significant barriers to overcome, Lindner encourages students to think outside the box and take on the responsibility of making the community a better place. Lindner added that there is not a large budget available for student clubs and that the environmental protection club could help develop ideas that “overlap” with already existing school initiatives. 

With such an active and passionate student body, Lindner believes that students will easily be able to dream up and spread new ideas in order to make JDS a greener place. 

“I do think it’s reality that sometimes it’s difficult to get things off the ground, but I certainly want to keep on talking about it,” Lindner said. “Sometimes it’s just that persistence that’s needed to make something happen.” 

This story was featured in the Volume 36, Issue 4 edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on January 25, 2019.