Presentation’s New Environmental Initiatives

Anvi Kasargod, Sports Editor/Reporter

It has been overwhelming. We have seen it on the news, in our Instagram feeds, our Facebook posts, and retweets. Forests are on fire, ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising — all due to climate change. 

Although the existence of climate change has been known for a long time, it has not been discussed so actively and globally until recently, as the consequences of carbon emissions have begun to reveal themselves through various natural disasters. 

Youth climate advocates such as Greta Thunberg have been vocal in demanding change from elected officials, and Thunberg has sparked international youth protests about the climate crisis, demanding an end to inaction. 

The growing actions to combat the climate crisis have kindled advocacy within the Presentation community as well. In November, the SEAS and SPA clubs organized a climate rally, distributed posters to spread awareness and delivered speeches to shed light on potential lifestyle changes that could benefit the environment. 

Although the rally was informational and brief, three club officers — Tanaya Nawathe, Indrea Goyal and Carolina Villa — wanted to ensure that issue would not quickly be dismissed once the rally concluded.

 As a result, they proposed specific cafeteria changes that PHS could implement in order to become more environmentally sustainable. They began with eradicating the use of plastic containers.

The EPA states, “Plastics are a rapidly growing segment of municipal solid waste (MSW). While plastics are found in all major MSW categories, the containers and packaging category had the most plastic tonnage at over 14 million tons in 2017.” 

By switching to compostable utensils and containers, the SPA and SEAS officers believed that Pres would not only be reducing its own plastic waste but also the overall amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and animals habitats. The students also conducted research regarding meat production’s adverse effects on the environment. 

An article by the Washington Post mentions that approximately 12.4 million acres of forest

Megan Twiddy
Indrea Goyal (left), Tanaya Nawathe (center) and Carolina Villa (right), at the Presentation Climate Reality Talk in November

are cut down each year to clear room for industrial agriculture. In addition to deforestation, cows also produce methane gas, which is released into the atmosphere and absorbs far more heat than carbon dioxide, contributing significantly to the rising global temperatures. 

Therefore, by decreasing beef intake and altering diets, the need to mass produce cow meat would decrease, which led the students to propose “No Meat Fridays.” 

When asked about the process of implementing these changes, Nawathe explained that the officers’ first step was meeting with the PHS administration. This included Timothy Case, Katherine Georgiev, Nancy Taylor and Andria Bengtson. 

Once the students presented their research and proposed changes, Katherine Georgiev set up a meeting with Pasta Market, the school’s main food provider. They met with the Pasta Market’s director, Bob, who was open to implementing the proposed changes and explained that other schools had also requested  to switch to compostable containers.

Nawathe mentioned that the students initially expected more opposition since compostable utensils are slightly more expensive; however, the director promptly agreed to the proposals. 

As a result of Nawathe, Goyal, and Villa’s efforts, PHS will soon be using compostable utensils and containers and will be serving vegetarian meals on Fridays. 

Utensils will be inside the cafeteria and inaccessible to those who do not purchase a Pasta Market meal. This is to encourage students to bring their own utensils, which are more sustainable than disposable ones. 

In addition to the student-led cafeteria changes, PHS has also implemented changes regarding paper usage. The Technology Department recently introduced the new application, PaperCut Jobs, to students as a platform to monitor the school’s overall paper usage as well as prevent paper waste. Departing from AirPrint, the conventional method of printing, students are now required to print their documents through the PaperCut Jobs app. 

The mandatory use of the app has received mixed reviews. While some students applaud it for its encouragement of environmental sustainability, others criticize its time-consuming printing process. 

These reactions bring into question whether students ought to prioritize short-term convenience over long-term environmental stewardship, especially when climate change poses an imminent threat to future generations. 

Nevertheless, it is reassuring to witness student-led advocacy for environmental change, demonstrating  that student initiatives can lead to long-lasting impacts.