Angel Colon, head of Stuyvesant’s SPARK organization, has established the Stuyvesant Environmental Club, which plans to raise awareness in the Stuyvesant community about the effects that the school has on the environment.
The Stuyvesant Environmental Club will start in the cafeteria by eliminating the old black trashcans and creating a recycling station in a designated section of the cafeteria. There will be several checkpoints at the station that will include a trash bin, bottle bin, paper bin, cardboard bin, and a pail for dumping liquids. Dumping liquids into trashcans has long been an issue because it can leak out of trash bags, staining the sidewalk and leaving unpleasant smells. When students are done with their lunches, they will get up, walk over to the station, sort their trash, and then leave. As to the way the cafeteria’s waste is organized now, “The cafeteria’s garbage system is atrocious,” senior Aarthi Kuppannan, President of the club, said in an email interview.
As of now, there are some labeled bins for recycling throughout the school, though most are not used properly. Many students are not attentive to what they throw in the trash, paper, and plastic bottle bins, making other students’ recycling efforts go to waste. “Students randomly throw their trash within receptacles that clearly say ‘paper‘ or ‘plastic‘” Kuppannan said.
Colon, along with Kuppannan and senior and Vice President of the club Nafisa Chowdhury, has planned to first focus on recycling in the cafeteria, which will help improve and spread awareness of recycling and the environment at Stuyvesant. “The cafeteria is the biggest platform that we have right now to get the environmental message through to the school,” Colon said.
The Stuyvesant Environmental Club plans to place display boards in the cafeteria to inform students and faculty members alike about how to recycle and the impacts it has. “Our goal is to make people in this school more conscious of the environment and of what should be recycled,” Colon said. “They can then take this information to their homes and communities, which will have a big impact.”
The new efforts at recycling have largely been received positively by the Stuyvesant community. “I would love to see Stuyvesant take on a more serious approach to recycling, because I do think that we are really wasteful,” sophomore Frances Shapiro said.
This is not the first time that Colon has tried to implement such a program at Stuyvesant. He believes previous failures are due to the lack of interest and enthusiasm in the club and its goals. Colon also cited a lack of enthusiasm from teachers as a reason for the previous club failures. “Other clubs and organizations in the past haven’t been successful because they had no follow-up,” he said. “Environmental consciousness, education, diversity, awareness, among others are not popular with most people because they might not be seen as the cool thing to do.”
Despite previous failures, Colon believes that the Stuyvesant Environmental Club will be successful. “We really have a great team together this year that will be devoted to doing the right thing for our school environment,” Colon said. Colon has been able to recruit many members of the faculty to support this cause, including Environmental Coordinator Carmen Citron, social studies teacher Michael Waxman, biology teachers Marissa Maggio and Jonathan Gastel, and middle shift foreman Kyle Hogin.
Most custodians support the plan because it would eliminate the amount of vermin that is in the school as well as make the environment cleaner. However, a few who disapprove of a recycling program say that this kind of system has been tried multiple times in the past and has always failed. A custodian, who wished to remain anonymous, cites students’ lack of compliance with the sorting rules as the principle reason for the failure of such plans. He suggests, “because kids are not forced to [recycle], they will not.” When such a plan was tried in the past, a major health problem arose as the cafeteria became infested with gnats. They were attracted by the unsanitary conditions the cafeteria had when food was sorted separately in a pile.
However, many students would be willing to recycle if it means that the vermin that walk around the school would go away. “It’s really disgusting walking into the cafeteria and seeing mice crawling under the radiators,” Shapiro said.
Colon’s inspiration came from seeing environment conservation issues that affect the world as a whole, such as oil spills, global warming, and general irresponsibility.
As for future plans, Colon said that he would want to consider promoting recycling and waste reduction on the second floor. “Lots of students spend time on the second floor and we could really reach out to a broad audience there,” Colon said.