by Alyssa Koon
Most students at Grandville High School recycle. In fact, about 87.4% say they recycle. Rhayna Lillie, president of the Green Team says, “at my house, we often recycle more than we throw away.”
The GHS Green Team has had a big impact on making the school more environmentally safe. They helped to spread the word that we should be taking care of our recyclables and we should be cleaning up after ourselves. The Green Team hasn’t always been called the Green Team though.
“We had a conservation club for a couple years until I realized students did not know what it was because, funny story actually…” Mr Randall said. “One day a student showed up and said, ‘I’m here for the conversation club’ and I said, ‘what do you mean?’ and they said, ‘I like to talk, let’s have conversation’ and I said, ‘No, no. This is the conservation club’ and they said, ‘what’s that?’”
Mr. Randall knew after that encounter with the student that the Conservation Club needed a new name and maybe then it would be more popular and get more attention. He made a good decision by changing the name. More students became interested in the club and he saw an increase in attendance at the meetings.
Rhayna joined the team on a whim her junior year. She did not begin attending meetings until late in the second semester because there were a few seniors who were in charge and they were not the best at including others. She decided to run for president her senior year.
“My decision to try to become president was to hopefully change the group so that others didn’t feel the way I did and also to try to push harder to really get things done rather than just meeting early in the mornings every other week,” Rhayna said.
Rhayna has been passionate about keeping the environment safe for a long time. She enjoys watching documentaries and researching environmental issues.
“Recycling is important to me because of how much trash gets put into our environment each day,” Rhayna said. “This is a particular problem in our oceans as there are multiple ‘garbage patches,’ one of which they estimate to be about the size of Texas, that are filled with microplastics or shredded pieces of plastic that are perfect for animals to swallow and can cause them harm. Our trash shouldn’t be in their environment and many people don’t know about or understand this issue.”
Other people just recycle because it seems like the right thing to do. One student said, “I don’t really care but if it means a better future for my future kids, then sure I’ll do it”.
Recycling has not always been around. It started popping up about 20 years ago and has become more popular year after year.
“It wasn’t a thing when I was a little boy. It wasn’t available,” Randall said. In his early adulthood, “communities started to offer that as an option and you know I just felt like it was the right thing to do. We kinda did it a little bit and recycled some and, you know as a homeowner, it costs a little bit of money, $10 a month or something, no big deal”.
However, $10 a month is what keeps some families from recycling. Recycling comes with a cost. It is not free. Caleb Jelsma-Cale’s family does not recycle due to the fees that come with it. However, Kent County offers free recycling dump- stations where you can go to drop off your recycling. The three locations are Recycling & Education Center, North Kent Transfer Station, and Kentwood Public Works Facility.
Randall said he started recycling because it felt right, but continued for other reasons.
“You know we start to see more and more of the effects of environmental issues, climate change and those types of things and as I got older and in my thirties, I started to feel like it was much more important to reduce our footprint and be a better example for our neighbor and my students and our adult friends and that’s just one thing we can do to demonstrate that we feel it’s important to take care of our footprint. So it’s not just about recycling because recycling isn’t the answer. Recycling helps a little bit if I am being honest, it helps a little, it doesn’t help a lot in terms of the environment because we still generate way too much waste, we use way too much plastic, but this is my demonstrating to the people around us that we care about our environment, it’s more symbolic.” -Mr. Randall
Rhayna shares, “One thing that I do outside of recycling to help the environment is that I’m a vegetarian. People may not realize this but the way that we handle our livestock is extremely bad for the environment. Cows in particular release more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation system combined and a lot of that is methane which has an exponentially greater effect. The best way to eat concerning the environment and really your health is a full vegan plant-based diet but that is very difficult with our animal product saturated society. For me though, being vegetarian is a very easy choice with everything that I have learned”.
The Green Team’s stated goal is to raise awareness amongst high schoolers about environmental issues and to help the high school reduce its footprint. The team hopes to raise enough money to be able to purchase renewable energy for GHS. Their goal is to have several solar panels on the roof of our building that will reduce the cost of heating/cooling in our building. Using the excess money these panels will save, the hope is to buy other products that are safer for the environment like motion sensor lights and hand dryers.
If you are interested in participating or learning more about the Green Team, their meetings are every other Wednesday morning at 7am. You can also contact Mr. Randall or Rhayna for more information.