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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Sunset High School, Portland, Oregon, USA

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Sunset High School, Portland, Oregon, USA
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Registered: December 2022
City/Town/Province: Portland
Posts: 1
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As a member of my high school's Climate Change Club for 4 years and a budding environmental activist for ages before then, climate change is the issue I've been most passionate about for as long as I can remember. There is no question that communities worldwide have been devastated by climate change, and my home is no exception. A now-normal "fire season" renders Portland under an apocalyptic lockdown for weeks of the summer, with people quarantined to their homes to escape unhealthy air. Low-income and houseless individuals without access to filtration systems bear the brunt of the resulting health impacts. A heatwave in the summer of 2020 was so intense that wiring on public transportation systems melted. Families that live amongst Oregon's many forests have lost their lives, homes, and businesses to wildfires.

To me, this is the tip of the iceberg, as millions worldwide are affected every day by climate change. Many disproportionately suffer as large, first-world countries and corporations contribute drastically more pollutants than the people in coastal communities or who live in poverty. And this doesn't even begin to describe climate change's impact on wild creatures. This interest and desire to protect our Earth, for its sake and our own, is what has inspired me to take on an Apprentice Ecologist Project.

As Co-President of Sunset High School's Climate Change Club this year, I wanted to continue and expand upon the work that previous presidents had initiated. This year, I focused my project on the Cedar Mill area in Portland, Oregon, as this is the location of my high school and community. It's important to me to start with local ecological work, as the beautiful forests, wetlands, meadows, parks and neighborhoods of my community deserve to be preserved for generations to come. Previous presidents had started Recycling Drives, where neighbors could drop off styrofoam, #6 plastics, and other items that couldn't be recycled through curbside recycling. In order to increase local sustainability, I wanted to continue to offer these drives regularly, expanding on the amount of material that we could recycle.

With the help of Climate Change Club, I planned and advertised the first Recycling Drive of the year. We decided on the last Saturday in October, the 29th. Sending information to local newspapers, posting on social media, and getting in-school announcements to cover the drive were a few ways we got the word out. Flyers were designed, then posted on our website and around the school. With the help of a local organization, my friends and I secured a large truck to collect recyclables that were dropped off.
The day of the Recycling Drive rolled around quickly. I had recruited members to help set up the parking lot of Sunset High School and assist visitors with their recycling. Essentially, we performed a recycling drive-thru, with cars pulling up to unload tons of styrofoam, #6 plastics, and miscellaneous items collected through local and national environmental programs. I had networked with a community member to find Terracycle labels in order to ship off items like toothbrushes, toothpaste containers, Brita filters, and even markers in order to recycle them. The styrofoam and #6 plastics (including flower pots, CD containers, plastic silverware, and takeout containers) were driven down to a company called Agiliyx to be recycled. More than eighty different cars pulled up to our modest little set up. In the end, the truck we'd borrowed was packed as full as possible with recyclables. My co-president and I had to stuff our cars as well, and accompanied the truck to make a Recycling Drive caravan trip down to the drop-off site. It was a success unlike any of us could have predicted!

Community members said over and over again how important this event was to them, I've never been thanked so often in such a short period. Really, it was I who should have been thanking them, whose participation and enthusiasm were a long sought-after light. For the club, this was a successful event; for me, it was a wake-up call to the power of my community.

It is my hope that the material that we recycle is repurposed and kept out of the natural world. After all, recycling is extremely important to any community that was to become sustainable, as keeping synthetic material out of landfills lowers pollution. In addition, more material that can be recycled means less new material needed, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, habitat depletion, and resource waste caused by the production of new goods. Climate Change Club will continue offering these drives every other month in order to lower the community's impact on the environment.

Due to this experience, I've been incredibly inspired to pursue a major in Environmental Studies or Science at the colleges I've applied to in order to later find a career in conservation or environmental sustainability. Additionally, I know now how much local action matters to me. My goals include joining or founding student-run organizations related to sustainability at the campuses that I join. As my work with the Sunset community and Climate Change Club has shown me, engaging the student body and connecting to others passionate about climate change activism can lead to powerful change.
Date: December 31, 2022 Views: 412 File size: 22.7kb, 1960.5kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 70
Volunteers: 7
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 35
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