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How Does the Northwest School Care for the Environment and Why Does It Matter?

The Northwest School does many things to try to care for the environment. A goal NWS has is to be carbon neutral by 2030, according to Neo M. (she/they), Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability. There are many ways that NWS helps reduce waste, such as using QR codes instead of printing a whole pamphlet and using refillable markers instead of disposable whiteboard ones. These are ways to help the environment that people sometimes overlook. Our dining program sources local food and uses Washington produce. This has a lower carbon footprint because less fuel is used, and it also makes the food more flavorful.

NWS goals for caring for the environment would not be possible without the NWS students.  Whether it’s the Climate Action Team, learning about climate change and environmental sustainability, the garden, or the environment program, there are multiple ways that the students demonstrate environmental stewardship. 

What else could be done to make a difference? One of the main things that Neo M. wants to improve is the appropriate sorting of trash and recycling. She says people don’t always realize the importance of accurate disposal. Neo states, “A big impact if people throw a boba cup that still has a little bit of boba into the recycling; it contaminates all of the recycling. There are a lot of bins that we just have to throw out because people aren’t sorting their waste properly.” We see how just one small thing, such as a piece of boba still being in the cup, affects the entire recycling bin. Ray W., Head of School, says the same thing about “taking the time” to put things in the right place. He also hopes to carve out more time in the environment program for students to learn more and have more time to connect with each other. Ray describes the environment program as, “still a vital part of the school’s history, and it will never go away.” Ray would like an impact report, stating how Northwest is doing on sustainability, and how it is affecting our environment. Overall, he believes the school does a lot for the environment. However, he says, “one should never be satisfied,” showing how there is always improvement to be made.

How does the Northwest School’s environment stewardship affect the students? One of the main things that the students contribute to is the environment program, which has always been a vital part of the Northwest School curriculum. Neo talks about a survey conducted last year wherein “the seniors said how one of the things they really liked was getting to form this community with their team.” These reflections highlight how important the environment program is to them. The environment program helps take care of our space and keeps our environment clean. When we all clean together, it’s more efficient than having just a few people do all of the cleanup. But to Ray and Neo, the socializing and cleaning aren’t even the most important part of the environment program. Neo talks about how, “practicing here with seniors and faculty to remind you that this is what caring for our space looks like, it will be a mentality we get used to, so we know it’s all our job.” As students we are learning, and one of the things that the environment program is meant to do is condition us to look after our environment. As Ray says, the environment program is, “helping students develop an awareness and an ability so they themselves influence those around them.” When thinking about environmental sustainability in the future, Ray wants students to think, “I had an opportunity to exercise that muscle while I was in high school and continue to exercise that muscle down the road.” If we get used to cleaning up, and being mindful of our effect on the environment, it will stick with us. Ray’s goal is for students to adopt these skills and habits, and continue using them throughout their lives. The lesson that Ray wants everyone to know is, one single act can disrupt a system and have a bad impact, but one single act can also improve a system and have a good impact.

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