Seriously Slacking Sustainability

By Sammy Herdman

Marin’s well-preserved county parks, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15,420 litres each year, and initiatives to support electric vehicles suggest that Marin has high standards for ecological protection. When considering this, it seems odd that Tam lacks one of the most basic ways to promote environmental sustainability: recycling bins. Besides the cardboard boxes put into classrooms around the school, and the few bins in the back parking lot, students have no opportunity to exercise environmental responsibility by recycling.

“We’re over 1,500 people, so that’s a lot of trash [and] a lot of recycling that’s produced and I think it’s a good place to form good habits,” said AP environmental science teacher, and link crew leader advisor, John Ginsburg. “Recycling’s not that hard, it’s just something you have to get in the habit of doing. If you only have trashes, people will put their trash [and recycling] right into the trash cans because they don’t want to carry it around too far and they don’t want to search too far.”

When estimating how much trash is produced at Tam each day, you have to consider not only the students who generate the trash, but also the teachers, administrators, and guests. Besides all of the recyclable paper products that are disposed of each day, there is a mass amount of lunch waste, such as food packaging, plastic utensils, and paper cups, brought to campus from homes, restaurants, and the Hungry Hawk. “When [Tam students] eat at places like the Hungry Hawk or if they’re walking around with papers they don’t need, they’re gonna put them in a trash can, not a recycling [bin],” senior Jake Isola-Henry said.

Freshmen from Mill Valley Middle School have to acclimate to a simpler waste disposal system than they’re used to. “There were like three different trash cans [at MVMS] and they said recycling, compost [and trash] and I’m pretty sure most people followed that,” freshman Sabrina Morgan said.

Because Tam is a fairly large school, and each student has at least five classes, it’s safe to assume that each student uses an estimated five sheets of paper a day, at least. According to [email protected] Magazine, an online environmental publication promoting sustainability, it takes 24 trees to produce one ton (about 200,000 sheets) of non-recycled paper. If every staff member and student at Tam uses five sheets of paper a day, that’s 7,500 pieces of paper in all, which means that it only takes about 2.6 days to cut through 24 trees. In a school year of 180 days, 1,661 trees are used to make just five sheets of paper per person at Tam. Imagine how much more plastic (from water bottles, binders, supplies and food packaging, etc.) and other papers (from cardboard boxes, newspapers, arts and crafts, wall decorations, packets of work, etc.) are also thrown away each day.

Recycling plastic and paper materials reduces the necessity of cutting down trees, and keeps the paper products out of landfills.

“I think the best scenario would be [having] trash and recycling bins in the classrooms as well as important locations around campus,” Ginsburg said.