Green Team and Eco Club at local schools put students in active role with environmental issues |

Green Team and Eco Club at local schools put students in active role with environmental issues

Emma Wilson/For the Steamboat Today

As the state of the environment becomes a more pressing issue, students of Steamboat Springs Middle School and Steamboat Springs High School have taken an active role in working to raise awareness and decrease waste within the schools and community.

The middle school’s Green Team has implemented a school-wide recycling policy and has refocused a variety of subjects in order to reduce waste and raise awareness of environmental issues.

Carly Ziegler, the main coordinator, said the group have changed the purpose to be more student-driven.

"They decide what we do,” she said about the students.

Their new ideas have included projects such as local food development, upcycling and recycling campaigns, hikes, recycling school supplies through Clean Out the Classroom and environmental film series, with every sort of project in between.

In the Take Charge Challenge, students were motivated to conserve energy by student energy ninjas. Members of the club were involved with education and outreach to teachers and students, and closed the three-week period with a win; a feat Ziegler considers an impressive accomplishment.

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"Our Earth Week festivities were something else," Ziegler said.

The Green Team got the entire school involved in its celebrations through a waste reduction contest in the cafeteria, which was won by the sixth grade class.

It also co-hosted the Earth Week Film Festival at Bud Werner Memorial Library, distributed donated native seed packets and reusable snack bags, and calculated carbon footprints, making pledges toward reduction of carbon usage.

In celebration of Local Food Awareness Month, May was dedicated for the club to work on its tower garden growing project. The tower garden's aeroponic growing system provides an alternative way to grow and harvest crops.

Ziegler said the club is looking to develop a food forest with advice from Elk Stone Farms and is looking for funding sources to start the project.

As Steamboat Springs Middle School instills the importance of an eco-friendly environment, Steamboat Springs High School's Eco Club has taken these environmentally conscious students with open arms.

Four years ago, when a group of four students concerned about the environment approached biology teacher Cindy Gay wanting to start a club, she said “yes” without hesitation.

"These students saw waste and wanted to tackle these issues," Gay said.

Throughout the years, the club has continued to grow in size as well as aspirations.

With original interests centered around reducing waste and focusing on large environmental issues, Eco Club has broadened its interests to include biology. With the new focus, Eco Club has become an official chapter of the National Association of Biology Teacher's High School Biology Club.

This feat has rewarded the club with green cords for graduating seniors to wear at graduation along with scholarship opportunities for graduates.

With this membership, the students will be able to network with other clubs across the country, enabling them to have a greater impact at a national level.

Eco Club has worked to raise awareness about environmental issues throughout the school through various projects including paper towel composting, recycling school supplies through Clean Out the Classroom, and reducing power use on school TV screens during off-hours. Along with these projects, the club has brought in various speakers to educate students about environmental issues along with current science.

"I've really like getting to see people start caring about the environment and biology through the things that we've done," said Eco Club leader Meg O'Connell, a senior at the high school.

Gay hopes to eventually reintroduce a water quality monitoring project for the Yampa River along with coming up with a school-wide, built-in recycling program. As of now, the club has partnered with the school's internship program to build a greenhouse on a concrete pad behind the school that has high ambitions.

Spearheaded by Kipp Rillos, head of the internship program, the greenhouse has been made possible by various school groups and two main interns: O'Connell, who works as greenhouse project manager, and Marshall Henry, an architecture intern who designed the greenhouse structure.

"The greenhouse is meant to be a sustainable interdisciplinary project resulting in a turn-key greenhouse," Gay said.

The goal is to sell the actual greenhouse, including the structure and plants, to members of the community for an estimated $5,000 that will cover the costs of putting it together. The funds then will be used to purchase materials for the next year's greenhouse. The ultimate goal is to get the greenhouse to produce enough to supply the cafeteria with fresh produce to be used in school lunches.

Emma Wilson, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, is working as an intern with the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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