Sitting in a circle discussion, with reusable water bottles resting on the desks and the windows of the abandoned greenhouse providing sunlight to the outdoor courtyard, Mrs. Erica DeMichele, an Environmental Studies and Forensics teacher at East, led a meeting along with Lori Braunstein, the executive director and founder of Sustainable Cherry Hill (SCH), to discuss environmental issues at East.
Student representatives from the Cherry Hill East Environmental Club and Sustainable Cherry Hill at East attended the meeting, which was held after school on Thursday, January 21st in C110.
Methods to improve the recycling at East began to spark conversation at the meeting, as the attendees looked around the classroom at the multiple recycling receptacles, several of which are used incorrectly.
“We need to have a mind shift of the way we do things and the impact of our actions,” said DeMichele.
Whether the lack of recycling is a result of a general carelessness about improving the environment, or simply due to miscommunication and a misunderstanding of how to recycle, the meeting attendees discussed methods for future improvements.
For example, the yellow plastic bins, initially allotted for recycling only paper, can now be used for all recyclable items because of East’s recent partnership with Recycle Bank. In addition, the blue recycling receptacles in the hallways and cafeterias can also be used for all recyclable items, not just plastic bottles.
The group discussed how East students and faculty need clarification about which trash should be thrown away in each can. Hoping to simplify the rules of recycling and eliminate confusion, the group discussed replacing the multiple trashcans with blue Recycle Bank trash bins, resembling the bins used by every household in Cherry Hill. However, funding the project is a main setback.
After addressing funding ideas, attendees discussed East’s vision for restoring the greenhouse, which is attached to the science room, C110. The group plans to visit the Center for Transformation in Camden, NJ next Thursday January 28th, looking to connect East faculty and students with volunteers from the Center, so that the greenhouse project may begin to blossom.
Focusing on environmental injustice and educating the community about their impact, the group at the Center for Transformation envisions “the sponsorship of local solutions to environmental challenges,” according to their website. The greenhouse project at East may be considered one of these solutions.
Another solution: educating East students about their environmental impact.
“We are creating too much waste,” said Braunstein, “We need to change the way we think.”