Last updated on February 12, 2021
We are in the process of a major shift that affects not only us as humans, but every living thing on our planet. Humans are responsible for climate change primarily due to fossil fuel emissions, especially from massive companies that profit off of fuel-based technologies. A question that comes up often when discussing how to best proceed with saving the planet’s ecosystems is, how much are we individually accountable? Many argue that it is most important to stop oil industries, and that individually lowering our carbon footprint won’t make much of a difference, especially with the limited time that we have. Another valid argument is that sustainable options, such as food and essentials, are priced at much higher rates than the alternatives and that consistent eco-friendly lifestyles aren’t available to everyone. However, normalizing making sustainable choices whenever possible could lower the demand of destructive products.
In addition to making changes at the individual level, the best way to make an impact on the environment around us is to make changes within our communities. Seattle Public Schools have worked with Resource Conservation Specialists to implement composting and recycling, as well as to reduce overall waste. King County also has programs in place to encourage schools to increase their efforts towards going green. These programs require waste reduction and recycling, energy conservation, water conservation, and pollution prevention to achieve a title as a “Green School”. However, Northwest being a private school with more independence, it is critical that we work as a community to make changes. Northwest has been making many efforts to reduce our school-wide carbon footprint, as well as educating the student body about it. The Environmental Interest Group meets every Friday, and this year there has been an environmental sustainability speaker series hosted by Jenny Cooper that brings in experts such as Heidi Roop and Abbey Brown. Students and families have also been caring for the chickens at Northwest’s farm and garden by the 401 building, so there are numerous ways for students to get involved, which is especially important with the absence of environment teams this year.
Making an effort towards sustainability at an individual level is particularly impactful at the moment. COVID has changed our waste production habits dramatically – according to BBC news, an estimated 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are being thrown away every month. While individual work to reduce this number may feel ineffective, simply cutting the straps before throwing away a mask can make the waste less destructive toward marine life. Even better, buy cloth masks and wash them regularly if possible. The best way to move forward is to continue to hold each other accountable, and reflect on how small scale actions are making a difference in the environment around us.