Students from three neighboring districts in the Adirondacks State Park, the largest state-protected area in the lower 48 states, want to make sure they don't leave big carbon footprints.
Aided by teachers and school-related professionals, the young environmentalists from the Tri-Lakes — Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake — are hosting conferences on climate change, installing rainwater collection systems and building root cellars, among other projects.
The first Adirondack Youth Climate Summit three years ago attracted scientists who spoke to students about their research. In the years since, teams have been culled from the more than 200 high school and college students in attendance. Teachers, custodians and building and grounds staff also participate and play vital roles in implementing the teams' initiatives, said Thomas Dodd, president of the Lake Placid Teachers Association.
"The teachers of the Tri-Lakes are happy to support our student's efforts at the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit and in our districts. We also support our students' volunteer work to help plan and implement the conference. The way we see it, we are investing in the development of tomorrow's leaders," he said.
Contributions from the Lake Placid TA, the Saranac Lake TA and Tupper Lake United Teachers helped support attendance at the most recent conference.
Students log thousands of hours helping to set up the conference, which is held each November at The Wild Center Natural History Museum in Tupper Lake. The event has led to an exchange program among three students, museum staff and environmentalists from Finland to study best practices in both countries.
Science teacher Tammy Morgan leads the high school environmental club in Lake Placid. Since the summit in November, the club has:
recycled 980 pounds of paper (averaging about 170 pounds per week);
held an E-Day educational awareness campaign;
given away 100 lunch bags handmade from recycled T-shirts;
raised $360 during a bottle drive; and
harvested carrots, potatoes, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes from school gardens. The produce, along with lettuce grown via hydroponic gardening, is used in the school cafeteria.
Saranac Lake's environmental club, "The Green Storm," reinstated a printer cartridge recycling program, put plastic recycle bins around the school, started a composting program with waste materials from classrooms and the faculty lounge, and analyzed the district's carbon footprint. They also handed out CFL light bulbs and information packets to downtown businesses. Up next: a dance for which no new clothes can be purchased. Students are encouraged to make their own dress or outfit from recycled material.
Tupper Lake students who attended the first Youth Climate Summit were inspired to create the district's first-ever environmental team. In three years the team has grown from five to 22 members, and has planted gardens, hosted a "recycled dress" dance, installed composting systems, and helped install a solar panel at a local motel.
With the other Tri-Lakes schools they hosted a global work party, and helped install the gutters and barrels for the rainwater collection system at a Lake Placid garden, where they also built a three-bin compost system. The garden is fed with compost collected from the high school cafeteria. A second garden is home to root vegetables.
Teachers Kathy Eldridge (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Lori Ransom advise the Tupper Green Team. They were recently awarded a $2,400 Clean Air Cool Planet grant to purchase an Energy-Star freezer to store vegetables from local farmers; to purchase a compost storage bin; and to build a root cellar in the elementary school, which will get underway this spring. Students can now participate in the entire food cycle.
The group has inspired the district to use zero-sort recycling, allowing for all paper, cardboard and plastic.
In presentations to science classes, community groups and other schools, the Tri-Lakes green teams emphasize how reducing carbon footprints is essential to slowing climate change and to saving the planet.