The kitchen staff from left to right; Milagros Delgado Leon, Maria Banuelos, Tsia Harris, Brandon Worrell, Gustavo Castaneda, Rudy Enriquez
By Isabella W. & Gracie S.
April 23, 2019
From new compost bins to a ban on plastic water bottles, recent changes in the Commons have been vast. These improvements have all been with the goal to make our Westridge campus more sustainable and environmentally conscious, as well as to educate the community on the issues that are promoting climate action. Although these modifications have proved to be sometimes challenging, they have created many positive outcomes.
Problems in the environment initiated the need for a more eco-friendly campus. “We think that plastic pollution is a really prominent issue and there's a few simple steps that we can take to decrease plastic pollution,” said Mirelle L., ’21. Along with plastic pollution, climate change fuels our need for an environmentally conscious school. “Right now climate change is an issue in our society, and so it's important that we try to make changes on a community level,” said Corina D., ’21.
Advocates for a more environmentally conscious school, Mirelle L., ’21 and Corina D., ’21, who are also both avid members of the Green Guerillas, a Westridge student-run club dedicated to making Westridge a more eco-friendly school, discussed the process of turning the Commons into more environmentally friendly place.
“After interim last year where we got to get some tips from Tree People (a workshop in LA) on how to become more environmentally friendly, Frances Yokota, former Director of Dining Services, eventually agreed to change the plastic utensils to compostable utensils,” said Corina D., ’21. This change was the first of many in the process of Westridge becoming a more environmentally conscious school.
One of the new trash, compost, and recycle bins
Making the changes towards a more environmentally friendly campus has not all been easy. While Westridge strives for a plastic free campus, there are instances where readily available water bottles are necessary. About 2-3 times per year Westridge sports teams need plastic water bottles. “There are times where we need to get water bottles for different teams because if a kid forgets their water bottle, they still need to stay hydrated. If out teams are travelling a long distance (CIF, CIF State) we bring extra water. It's not always that easy for outdoor sports to access water because there are not always water fountains around,” said Melanie Horn, Director of Athletics.
The new compost and recycle system can also be hard to manage with the chaos and rush of lunch. “When I’m in a rush, I don’t take the time to think about if I am supposed to compost, recycle, or throw away a plate or something because it just doesn’t come to my mind. I also don’t have the compost and recycle list memorized, so it is hard to remember what item goes in what bin,” admitted Camilla C., ’21.
Brandon Worrell, Director of Dining Services, also expressed the difficulties of making environmentally friendly changes. “The most challenging aspect of composting is the communication & education with all the staff members on what is compostable as well as the process of disposing the compost. We have a janitorial staff, a facility staff, and kitchen staff, everyone has to be on the same page in terms of how the compost needs to be handled while all working together simultaneously,” said Worrell.
Since introducing compost to campus, Westridge has had to add a completely new truck whose sole purpose is to pick up the compost and deliver it to its proper site. The new composting truck sent by the trash company has been proven costly, and there are still problems with the trash company despite having the necessary accommodations. “I have been on the phone with the trash company like three times this week because I keep telling them ‘you didn’t pick up’ or ‘you picked up the wrong barrel,’” said Worrell.
One of the Green Guerillas heads, Sophia B., ’19, discussed the importance of education in not only composting and recycling, but also reducing waste. “I think we still need a lot of education about the fact that you have to reduce your impact rather than just compost and recycle,” said Sophia.
Tsia Harris, Gustavo Castaneda, and Rudy Enriquez in the kitchen.
Although there have been problems along the way, Westridge’s responsibility to have an eco-friendly campus outweighs the challenges. “The new bins have encouraged me to use less plastic and use more compostable items,” said Sophia C., ’22. Other students have also agreed that the improvements have been beneficial. “It has definitely made me more aware of what I’m throwing out,” said Max E., ’21.
The small changes Westridge makes impact the environment in a substantial and positive way. By reducing the school’s plastic use, Westridge is helping decrease plastic pollution and making the school community more environmentally friendly. “We have a long way to go before we are being as efficient as we could be, but we are making huge progress,” said Corina D., ’21.