I had the pleasure of chatting with youth leader of WHS Global Environmental Club about the charities they are involved with, deforestation issues and solutions, along with how we all can become more sustainable. This is by far one of my favourite interviews to date. I hope you enjoy!
Let’s jump in:
- Tell us about the WHS Global Environmental Club. How did it start, and what are the underlying values of your Club? What does WHS Stand for? Can you also tell us about Plant with Purpose?
Hi! WHS Global Enviro is a high school club. The WHS stands for our High School name, which is Westfield High School. We are located in Westfield, New Jersey.
I started the club last March when I learned about the power of trees, and the organizations behind wanting to save them. I wanted to get involved and find others who shared my passion. I’m now proud to have a club with amazing members and close friends!
As club members, we are dedicated in sharing our education and passion for the environment wherever we go. My club members are truly some of the most diligent, talented, outspoken, and creative people I know. We want to inspire teens, and our community. We want to emphasize that our every day actions do shape the world, and that we do play a pivotal role in changing the future and our reality today. We strive to educate, motivate, and take action.
Plant With Purpose is a fantastic non-for-profit charity I discovered last year, which inspired me to start the club. It opened my eyes up to a solution that will combat climate change, poverty, and hunger in developing countries and impoverished areas of the world: trees.
Plant With Purpose’s Charity will plant one tree with every dollar donated, and will put a large part of its donations towards sustainable education, as well. Planting is not enough. This charity makes an amazing effort in teaching local people within deforested areas how to plant sustainably, keep soil intact, and water usage as low as possible to conserve crucial resources.
Notably, this education is very helpful in combating hunger because the native trees ‘Plant With Purpose’ helps to plant do help to replenish the soil with natural nitrogen properties. The nitrogen from the trees acts as nourishment towards damaged soil. This renewed soil allows local people to begin planting crops again, and with sustainable education, they are not as likely to strip the soil again of essential nutrients.
Furthermore, planting crops of trees will combat hunger in the community and spark a local economy. Farmers may sell any extra crops they grow and save enough money to send their children to school, which is incredible! I fell in love with the charity’s mission and had to spread their achievements and goals to my club. Amazingly, we ended up raising over $500 in the 4 months during last year’s school year. I am very proud of our hard work.
Although my club will be supporting other charities this year, ‘Plant With Purpose’ was a great start and allowed us to learn so much about the environment. A tree can really do amazing things for the land and the people who live on it.
- What motivated you personally, when it came to forming this club?
Many students believe it’s impossible to change the world, and that it’s ridiculous to think we play any part in anything. This is how I used to feel, and some days I still do feel that way. As teens, it is pretty normal to have feelings of this sort. Yet, I don’t want this feeling to linger. I want us all to grow up with the knowledge and understanding that we all can change our world, and that change can occur at any age and in any place.
Truly, I don’t have to stand on the senate floor to spark change, or go through 10 years of graduate school to be a leader.
This is my mantra and what I hope others see. My passion is the environment and sustainability. I’ve always felt a connection with nature, and I am determined to make the world a better place. I’m always trying to find ways to live more sustainably, and I desire to make my own school improve its sustainability practices, too.
- Let’s chat more about deforestation that is happening daily on a global level. What are your personal thoughts on the matter?
Deforestation is a major problem in the United States, and many other countries, no doubt. A huge issue that results from deforestation, besides habitat loss and species destruction, is the elevation of climate change. By cutting down trees, we significantly increase the amount of carbon in the air because fewer plants and trees are able to absorb greenhouse gases during photosynthesis. These harmful effects caused by deforestation are why my club has had such an enormous focus on trees, and supporting charities that make reforestation efforts.
It is our mission to educate those around us, and find ways to not support businesses that contribute to deforestation. Notably, McDonald’s in Brazil is one such business. Sadly, McDonald’s clear cuts forests in Brazil to make room for grazing animals such as cows.
Little things, like not supporting this food company, make a huge difference in the long run when battling against deforestation. We can all find ways to limit the affects of deforestation; we just have to be willing to do the research to take those steps.
- What are your hopes for your group in the next five years?
Since we are mostly all juniors in this club, graduating in the class of 2018, we hope our club will grow so it can continue after we leave. We have been actively recruiting underclass men and women to be a part of our club.
We hope to implement a battery recycling program at our school this year, fundraise for more environmental charities, and immerse ourselves in restoration projects, all while performing environmental volunteer work in our community. In the coming years, we’d also like to address issues such as school-wide food waste and usage of non-recycled paper.
5. How can we be more sustainable with our wood choices? Do you have any recommendations?
Living sustainably isn’t as hard as you may think. I started small by rejecting single-use plastic as often as I could by carrying around my own reusable water bottle. I use this water bottle in school, coffee shops, smoothie places, and more.
I also say no to straws and plastic bags wherever I go. Interestingly, straws are one of the biggest sources of plastic found in the ocean. One word can make all the difference: no.
Additionally, I carry around my own reusable bags whenever I go shopping in the mall, or to the grocery store. I have also become a vegetarian because the meat production industry is a huge waste of water, and livestock produces enormous amounts of methane. This gas is the most potent greenhouse gas. In cutting beef and poultry from my diet, I have drastically decreased my greenhouse gas footprint, and I am further aligned with my morals.
This year, I plan on starting my own compost to eliminate my food waste, and I aspire to make my own products, such as body butter to eliminate the plastic packaging it comes in when I buy it at the store.
Reusing and recycling are helpful, but “refusing” is the best, most efficient “R” to make the biggest difference.
I was deeply inspired to limit my waste by Lauren Singer’s incredible blog Trash is For Tossers. Definitely check her out! I hope to inspire others with my own actions, as well, while spreading the notion of sustainable living to my school and community at large.
In sum, whether you choose to make a large dietary change to limit your meat and animal product consumption, decide to say no to straws, or make a convenient change like carrying your own reusable water bottle, I urge everyone to become more considerate and environmentally responsible.
Sustainability, at this point, is not a choice; it is truly a requirement for everyone on Earth to become more sustainable in some way if we want to make any progress in the fight against climate change. Every action, no matter how seemingly minuscule or negligible, is a million times better than nothing at all.
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Check out the club’s article featured in a local newspaper, click here! The article, “Plant a Tree With a Treat at Westfield High School” was covered by the Westfield Leader when they learned of the club’s fantastic efforts.