Earth Day celebration revolves around club collaboration

Eco Reps recruit extracurricular leaders to spread environmental awareness

Christos Papavassiliou, Contributing Writer

Over a dozen school clubs honored Earth Day this year with activities that celebrated the environment or addressed environmental issues threatening our planet.

“We were so excited to have so many clubs collaborate with us because it proved just how large an issue climate change and environmental justice are and how many ways they impact people and the planet,” outgoing Eco Reps Co-President Clio Quilter-Vagts ’21 said.

As the club hosting the event, the Eco Reps recognized that the many students already committed to other clubs could be recruited to spend Earth Day addressing environmental topics, Eco Reps Faculty Advisor Ariel Duddy said, the goal being greater turnout and exposure to the message of climate change’s pervasive impact.

“Lucky for us, the student leaders of many clubs were willing to collaborate with us to make this pandemic-era Eco Bash work,” Ms. Duddy said.

Each of the participating student-led groups undertook an activity or discussion related to the environment. Girls Advancing In STEM (GAINS) planted herbs, Speech and Debate argued resolutions about electric cars, and Art for Social Change created a sculpture out of recyclable materials. Jewish Cultural Club (JCC) planted a tree, Literature Club swapped books, and Medical Club discussed how the pandemic has affected the environment. Entrepreneurship Club discussed how business and the environment connect, and Drama Club played an improvisation game in which members performed stories with environmental themes. Meanwhile, the kitchen staff provided all participants a locally sourced lunch in compostable containers.

Speech and Debate Co-Captain Julia Shephard ’22 said the environmental resolutions chosen by the debaters allowed for compelling arguments on both sides.

“In the past, when we’ve done climate change debates, one side has always been the ‘bad’ side that undermines the problem, and I liked that this time the focus was less on choosing either sustainability or economic goals but figuring out the best ways to achieve both.”

As speech and debate’s first in-person practice this year, the Earth Day meeting attracted spectators as well as debaters, which made the milestone practice on such an important topic even more special, Julia added.

Medical Club Co-President Oscar Capraro ’22 said his group had never thought about intertwining the idea of Earth with medicine until the days leading up to the event, but once they did, they found interesting connections.

“Medical Club learned about the implications of pollution on human health,” Oscar said. “We examined how pollution disproportionately affects certain populations and also some of the unexpected side effects.”

During the meeting, members also focused on how COVID-19 affects the environment negatively—through waste left by masks, forexample, and by factories’ mass production of vaccines.

GAINS Co-Leader Sanya Goenka ’22 said the goal of her club’s meeting was to educate attendees on the science of gardening and the relationship between STEM and environmentalism. It also encouraged members to start their own gardens.

“STEM can help propose innovative solutions to all things environmentally detrimental, whether it be different forms of pollution or climate change,” Sanya said.

Beyond the club activities, the Eco Reps sold one-dollar raffle tickets for a ceramic pot made by Ceramics Teacher Christian Tonsgard, heirloom plants, locally sourced, organic hot sauce, and environment-friendly products like sunscreen free of harmful chemicals, non-toxic and non- plastic reusable straws, and a Kleen Kanteen water bottle. Using the money raised from this effort combined with saved funds from last year, the Eco Reps split a $410 donation between the National Resources Defense Council and The Canopy Project, two environmental advocacy nonprofits.