UHS’s first Earth Week: activities favor antics over environmental education

Although many of Earth Week’s activities seemed more to waste resources than to actually address issues posed by climate change and other ecological crises, UHS did invite a speaker who informed students about the threat of global warming. (Danya Clein)

By AVA WELSH
News Editor

Usually associated with the release of wildlife-centric Disney films and parents forcing kids outside to enjoy a sunny afternoon, Earth Day has had a constant presence in America for almost half a decade. In this time of environmental turmoil, with oil spills destroying the ocean and global warming predicted to warm the earth eight degrees by 2100, the knowledge of environmentally-friendly practices is essential, especially to younger generations.

Although Earth Day has been celebrated for many years, UHS held its first annual “Earth Week” celebration – which includes Earth Day – this year. Being so new, it is understandable that there were bumps throughout the week; however, the week’s novelty does not excuse the issues surrounding the events themselves.

The scheduled events for Earth Week were largely dress-up days, as follows: students were to dress up as animals in honor of Meatless Monday, wear garbage bags for Trashbag Tuesday, dress as hippies on Wednesday and wear activewear on Thursday. Ultimately, these events completely contradicted the promoted goal of Earth Week, which should have been to promote conservation and create environmentally conscious members of society.

Instead, they have turned students away from the cause by treating them like small children playing dress-up in elementary school and, in turn, led most to remain uninvolved and view the week as a joke. But besides simply turning the majority of the student body away from the message, these events have ironically served to create environmental issues of their own.

Meatless Monday, for instance, should have been focused on instructing students and faculty alike about how not consuming meat can be incredibly environmentally-friendly, saving the almost 460 gallons of water used to produce only ¼ a pound of beef.

However, instead of any education about the effects of having a meat-free diet on the environment, Monday was filled with only a handful of students dressing up as their favorite animal, taking away both the seriousness in inspiring others to take a meat-free diet and the spirit from the majority of students.

Following this, Tuesday’s events came to be the worst representation of a fundamental ideal Earth Week should be promoting: conservation. By having students dress up in trash bags, the planners of Earth Week not only opted for another day with no education about why recycling is important and how much of a difference it can make, but also forced UHS students to add to the problem. By wearing completely unused garbage bags, students actually created trash by wasting plastic bags. After wearing them for a day, students threw these unused bags away, thereby unnecessarily adding to the waste problem already creating floating plastic masses in the ocean.

The next two days followed with dress-up disasters of their own, starting with Wednesday, which was originally called “Vegan Day” during Friday’s homeroom announcements. Wednesday encouraged students to poke fun at the stereotype of vegans by dressing as hippies. Organizers once again ignored education opportunities to teach about the health and immense environmental benefits of living a vegan lifestyle. Instead, they had UHS students help push forward unneeded and untrue stereotypes.

The last day of Earth Week’s dress-up days featured Thursday’s activewear day, on which participation still ran low. Most students who donned active gear seemed, instead of trying to help promote an active lifestyle (once again without any informative ideas about why an active body leads to a healthy environment), to have simply worn their usual day’s attire.

Alongside the dress-up events Eco Club had organized, a speaker series about climate change also took place on Wednesday, as did a recycling competition between grade levels on Friday. Of the whole week, these two events were the only ones even slightly helpful in legitimately promoting an environmentally-conscious mindset in students by actually informing them of the effects of global warming and promoting recycling, respectively. By lacking the tacky aesthetic of dress-up days, these two events actually served to teach students about the environmental issues surrounding them instead of being the source of student body jokes. 

All in all, it was not so much the events of Earth Week themselves, but the effects of the lack of planning and creativity that were the biggest problem. Earth Week came across to the majority of the student body as an unpublicized and rushed event and was, therefore, shrugged off as just another event to joke about for a week or two on campus.

But our environment shouldn’t be a joke, especially with how our students are experiencing an environmental disaster firsthand, in the form of the California drought – environmental protection should be at the forefront of students’ minds. Posters with statistics about water wastage, a day dedicated to teaching kids about the sustainability of succulents versus watered grass or a school wide effort to pick up the trash littering campus would all have been valuable Earth Week activities.

Understandably, there are always issues surrounding the first celebration of any event, and UHS finally hosting an Earth Celebration is an incredible step forward in creating an eco-friendly school and student body.

Personally, I hope the club will continue on for many years; however, a week treated like a joke, lacking education about real issues and serving to only push students away from becoming passionate about the severity of our environment was simply wasteful.

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