Sustainability is founded on a principle of long-lasting, maintainable initiatives that can be continued on indefinitely, and Westminster enforces this notion in order to create a healthy environment for the school. In order to keep these initiatives both prevalent and renewable, many students and faculty participate in on-campus clubs that foster such growth, one such club being the Environmental Campus Organization or the Dirt Cats club helping around in the garden.
“I’d say that our main goal is to increase student involvement outside the club and to make sustainability more fun for all students,” said senior and ECO club president Ansley Harralson. “We also want to make more visible the efforts that we do already on campus, so that we can have those big projects like the composter in the lunchroom.”
The ECO club is student-run, led by presidents, Lexi Elliot and Ansley Harralson, as well as vice-presidents, Mary Bryce Brannen and Maya Sinha . The club participates in several green challenges to raise money in order to make the campus more sustainable. Looking to take a new approach to environmental advances around the school, the members of environmental clubs and the garden staff hope to bring about more involvement from all grades.
“A lot of people don’t know the garden exists, for one,” says Dirt Cats advisor Emily Horne, “or that the greenhouse exists as well. So, we’re really trying to make it a little bit more visible to all students. Even though it’s in the center of campus, people still don’t notice it.”
The campus already houses a myriad of sustainable resources such as solar panels and sufficient green spaces, which rely upon resources that are in abundance and that present little harm to the environment.
“We also put those dual flush toilet handles,” said senior and ECO club vice president Lexi Elliot, “the watering stations, and the automatic motion sensor lights in the bathroom. We just have done stuff like that over the years.”
While some of the efforts on campus are often obscured from sight and aren’t as noticeable as a solar panel or a recycling bin, these imperceptible initiatives often have an enormous impact, such as the drip system in the garden.
“We have a drip system here that you can hear,” said Horne. “It runs on a timer, which is set to go off at 3 PM and runs for 2 hours. Drip systems are really, really important when you spray. All the mist that you create when you spray ends up evaporating into the air, so we lose a lot of that water. The water that drips out comes from the retention pond that’s by the little chapel, and it’s piped all the way here, so we just have it drip a little bit, and the small drip helps us retain more of our water.”
However, the garden has been gaining attention by adding new features such as a kiosk with information about growing seasons and what’s currently being grown. Also, there has been an expansion in the natural forest area that mimics the edible conditions of a real forest a. In addition, the garden has undergone a variety of other non-physical developments in recent months.
“The forest space is expanded,” said Horne, “and we’re working with the community to take ownership of this space. We’re doing that through classes. So, whether I have an art class, a physics class, a history class, or a music class, they all connect through the cross–curricular garden.”
Awareness is already increasing due to the improvements in the garden, the new composting initiative in the lunchroom, and all the efforts that the ECO club puts into raising consciousness school wide.
“We’re really trying to be action-oriented this year,” said Harralson “We have a Facebook page as a platform for discussing scientific stuff such as on and off campus volunteer opportunities through partnership with the Community Service Club, carpool to school day, and the earth week celebration.“
The new green initiatives on campus are trying to create a more social environment, working towards the common goal of making the world cleaner and more sustainable. With the help of institutions such as the garden and the ECO club, these initiatives will continue to lead the way towards sustainable development, especially with the added enthusiasm of the student body.