Head of School Blog

Students Embrace This Year’s Eco Challenges – Will You?

Jill Singleton: Volume: 4 Issue: 3 September 24, 2014

Sunday’s Climate March in Manhattan drew a crowd of three to four hundred thousand people, according to some news sources. I have been receiving a number of blogposts related to the march, and my favorite was written by The Rev. Robert Corin Morris, of South Orange, NJ:

So there we were shouting, singing, waving flags and carrying signs that read “There is no Planet B” and “Butterflies against the end of the world” as we marched 300,000 strong in Manhattan on Sunday at the People’s Climate March. But, in spite of the thrill of the March and the inspiration of the songs, the sight that struck the deepest chord in my heart was this: twenty or so people on a hill in Central park utterly still, utterly silent, holding an “Earth Vigil,” meditating, praying for creation itself and the salvation of our civilization from its destructive, errant ways. (Read the full blog here: http://provocativeponderings.blogspot.com/)

At All Saints, one of our mission points speaks directly to the need for the appreciation and protection of our planet: “A sense of responsibility for this planet, and gratitude for its beauty.” This aspect of our mission took center stage during our summer retreat, where teachers and administration created four distinct Eco Challenges that our school community has committed to taking on this year.

We ask parents to partner with us in these challenges, which are outlined below.

The Pencil Challenge: Did you know that more than 82,000 trees are cut down each year for pencils? When you think of how few pencils even make it to half of their length before being lost or tossed aside, that’s a staggering number. The pencils we purchase come from trees in Sierra, California. Conservative estimates are that our school used more than 8,000 pencils last year – more than 30 pencils per student! This year we did not order any pencils, and instead are hoping to make the 2,000 we have in our classrooms last for the year. Students have really embraced this challenge and are being much more intentional about keeping track of this precious resource.

Put a Fork in It (your lunch box, that is!): Last year we used more than 13,000 pieces of plastic cutlery. This summer we scoured a number of thrift stores and purchased enough stainless steel cutlery for every child in the school. Each class has a set, and class sets will be combined for schoolwide events. Parents are asked to send reusable cutlery in their children’s lunchboxes. If you forget, don’t worry! We have extras in the classroom. Today, in assembly, I shared a pouch of bamboo cutlery I now carry everywhere with me and I assure you that many children will be asking their parents for a set! It’s called To Go Ware and here is the link where it can be purchased from Heifer International – not only will you be getting a great product but you will be supporting a wonderful humanitarian organization as well: http://shop.heifer.org/cultural-home/bamboo-utensil-sets.html

Can You Refuse Enough? (C.U.R.E.): This challenge relates to our consumption of bottled water and plastic cups. At All Saints last year we used 17,500 plastic cups and more than 1200 gallons of water! That’s a lot of plastic going to the landfill. We are adding an “R” to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra – and that’s REFUSE! This year we will not be purchasing gallon jugs of bottled water, but will instead be using our new filtered bottle filler on the third floor supplemented with a Brita filtration system for the first floor classrooms. You can help by sending your child to school with a water bottle each day as we will not longer be stocking plastic cups. (Don’t worry - we’ll always have a few for emergencies!)

The Lorax Challenge: In 2013-2014 the school used 64 cases of copy paper. Each case contains 5,000 sheets, which means we consumed 320,000 sheets of paper or 1,250 sheets per student! If placed in a neat stack, the paper we used would reach the height of two typical Hoboken houses (106 feet), would extend 66.67 miles if placed end to end, and would kill 38 trees! If we continue at this rate of consumption, in 10 years the stack of paper would be nearly as high as the Empire State Building! At All Saints we will be using what we call “GOOSE” (Good on the Other Side, Everyone) paper as frequently as possible, and will drastically reduce the items that go to print. Tuesday Trackers, progress reports, and several other items that heretofore were printed will now be sent electronically.

Students are enthusiastically embracing these challenges, and teachers are carefully tracking their students’ consumption so that we can celebrate the many important changes we make at All Saints this year as we become better stewards of the planet.

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: jsingleton@allsaintshoboken.com