Lower School Sustainability Initiatives

November 15, 2023

In a recent Lower School assembly, Class IV students educated their peers about two important sustainability struggles: plastic over/misuse and paper waste. When Cora B. ’32, Maya C. ’32, Anja H. ’32, and Caroline K. ’32 were in Class III, they were deeply affected by the documentary A Plastic Ocean, which details the harmful effects that plastic can have on marine life and the Earth’s oceanic ecosystem. The film had such an impact on them that they began to brainstorm ways that they could make a difference. They came to assembly with three concrete ways to combat plastic pollution. First, they encouraged the community to start small and swap out plastic items for reusable items like grocery bags and water bottles. Second, they reminded the audience about the importance of recycling and either repurposing plastic directly—perhaps in an art project—but at the very least always being extra careful to place plastic in the correct bin. Third, they encouraged their peers to be proactive and dispose of litter when found out and about in the world. In their words, “every little bit helps!”

Next, the Lower Schoolers heard from Ali O. ’32 and Reese C. ’32 who shared staggering statistics surrounding paper use and waste in the world. For example, a typical school uses 2,000 sheets of paper a day, 42% of the world’s trees are harvested for paper, and Americans use 85 million tons of paper a year. Stunned by these facts and figures, Ali and Reese put their heads together to find a solution to paper waste at Nightingale, which led to the introduction of The Wipe Book. A combination of a white board and a big Post-It Note, it’s a sustainable solution to solving some of the paper use in the Lower School. Class IV will pilot the use of the Wipe Books and if it’s helpful in reducing paper waste and the teachers like using it as a teaching tool, then the goal is to populate more Lower School classrooms with them moving forward. In the meantime, Ali and Reese also encouraged the community to recycle, avoid printing extra copies, and use both sides of paper when writing. They concluded their lesson by sharing, “Thank you for listening and keep in mind that every one of us can start small to help the big problem of paper wasting.”