Push for a cleaner campus

Third place, editorial writing

In a meeting last March, the United Nations said there are just 11 years to stop climate change. We have already spent one of those years making little progress, leaving a mere decade in between us and irreversible and inevitable damage and destruction to our planet.

As a school, we can idly sit by as we complain about politicians and big businesses not doing enough, or we can take action as a community and work to improve DHS’s carbon footprint and pollution problem. It is imperative that DHS students and administration work together to create a cleaner campus environment.

Aside from the environmental aspect, having a clean campus has been proven to improve academic performance, as students are happier and can focus better. A study conducted by Leadership in Educational Facilities, better known as APPA, said that not only did having a cleaner campus keep students engaged for longer, but it also reduced illnesses on campus.

With this in mind, DHS should work to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in the cafeteria. Every day, hundreds of meals are given to students, each contained in convenient, disposable wrapping that immediately goes in the trash, or even worse, is dropped to the ground where it clutters the campus and pollutes the planet. According to the UN Environment Programme, food wrappers are the fourth most common trash found in the environment.

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, and instead finds its way into oceans, waterways and landfills before it turns into harmful micro plastics. Plastic was invented in 1907, and according to Scientific American, it takes up to 1,000 years for plastic to break down completely, meaning virtually every piece of plastic ever made still exists.

Plastic kills millions of animals every year, according to Ocean Crusaders, an Australian nonprofit organization, and the chemicals released from decomposing plastic further pollutes soil and can cause dead zones, spots in the ocean where no living things can thrive.

To combat this issue, there should be a system with reusable trays and dishes, that get dropped off in designated areas when they are done being used. Typical plastic utensils can be swapped out with metal or reusable plastic forks.

To prevent the loss or theft of these dishes, when a student types in their student ID number, they should have to specify if they are using reusable dishes or not. When they return them, they should have to punch in the ID number again to check off that they have been returned. Dishes that have not been returned should be charged to the students’ account.

If students need to take lunch on the go and use throwaway packaging, that packaging should be compostable whenever possible, and there should be an additional surcharge of $0.50, excluding those with free and reduced lunch.

DHS does not require service hours to graduate, so instead of having mandatory service hours, students should be required to do 10 hours of campus clean-up over the span of their three years here. Littering will be a personal issue, and people will have to take responsibility for their trash, hopefully making the student body litter less.

The DHS population can’t keep producing the amount of waste that it does every day and expect to see a clean campus. Change has to start somewhere, and by taking these small steps to reduce waste, the school can make a great impact on the larger community.