Initiative raises awareness for sustainability

The+composting+initiative+has+significantly+cut+down+Brookline+High+School%27s+carbon+emissions

Jeremiah Levy

The composting initiative has significantly cut down Brookline High School's carbon emissions

The smallest actions sometimes have the greatest impacts, even here at the high school. Last year, Brookline High School saved eight metric tons of carbon after composting, reducing our output of greenhouse gases that are detrimental to the environment.
Social Studies teacher Roger Grande said that he believes the high school community needs to reevaluate how we think about our effects on the environment.
“For several years, I’ve been thinking that it’s not just me wanting change. The climate crisis is intensifying, and we as a school, along with all schools really, need to train students with the skills to be prepared and to be resilient to adaptation,” Grande said.
Grande applied to the Innovation Fund’s “Innovation Fellowship” two times before his third proposal was accepted. He plans to use the resources to make his sustainability initiative become a reality.
GraduateGreen is the term Grande coined for this sustainability initiative. He hopes that students will graduate from the high school with a green mindset, and that they’ll consider the impact they have on the environment as they move on to college or a career.
Grande is also the advisor for the Food Justice Club, who worked with the Environmental Action Club to develop lessons to be taught during advisories throughout February. The clubs collaborated to create three lessons: Recycling, Compost and Food Waste, and the Food System.

As a school we have an opportunity to cultivate habits of the mindset. This is something that everybody can be involved in. It can be our culture change.”

— Roger Grande, World History teacher

Seniors Grace Sokolow and Gigi Walsh are the co-leaders of the Food Justice Club, which is working with Grande to bring improved sustainable culture to BHS. Sokolow said that Grande wants this to be a student initiative.
“We have a composting system in place, we have a recycling system in place, and now it’s up to the students to use it correctly and effectively,” Walsh said. “There is always more progress to be made in sustainability and that both come from the actions of the students as well as actions and policies that are up to the administration.”
Some teachers are currently implementing lessons of sustainability into their curriculum. Grande believes this should be done on a larger scale, even in departments whose classes are less connected to environmental issues.
“It’s not the science department’s job. It’s no more their responsibility than it is for the rest of us,” Grande said. “Climate change is the consequence of economic and political decisions, and it’s going to take economic and political decisions to resolve the issue.”
Grande said that it will take a cultural shift in how we think about education in order to implement sustainability into all subjects. He thinks this can be achieved if the students can, keeping the larger impacts in mind, change their routines because of learning about sustainability in the curriculum.
“As a school we have an opportunity to cultivate habits of the mindset,” Grande said. “This is something that everybody can be involved in. It can be our culture change.”
According to Grande, the ultimate vision is to make the Brookline school system into designated Green Ribbon schools. The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School’s aim is to encourage districts to start sustainability practices that reduce environmental impact and cost, and improve health and wellness with sustainability culture.
Sokolow is excited to start teaching the sustainability curriculum in junior advisories, and she hopes that students will be open to trying something new for the environment.
“People would be surprised how easy it is to make some of these switches, and how good it feels to know you have power over how much plastic you use in your life,” Sokolow said. “I want people to give this a shot, come at it with open hearts and minds, and try to do something sustainable.”
While global prospects can seem grim, Walsh remains optimistic. She believes students care about these issues, especially after demonstrating at the Boston Climate Strikes, and will feel empowered in understanding their impacts on the environment.
“I think students should care about sustainability because it’s an environmental issue, but beyond that it is a human rights issue and it’s an issue that is going to directly affect our lives in more ways than we can imagine,” Walsh said. “I think our actions and decisions we make now are going to directly shape the future we experience.”