Students hope to make a positive impact on their local environment
Henry Lizotte cares about the planet and wants to do his part to protect the environment.
His passion about the subject led him to deliver a TED Talk on climate change last year.
“I’ve been interested in climate change for a little while now,” said Lizotte, a sixth grader at Saline Middle School, who recently joined Green Teens, a group of environmentally focused Saline students, seeking to make a positive impact in the community. The group, formed at the Saline District Library, gets students involved in environmental concerns.
“When I heard the library was hosting this group, I got excited and wanted to join,” he said.
“From the beginning, I have been happy to help with this student-led initiative,” explains Katie Mitchell, the Saline District Library Teen Services Librarian. “I was approached by a couple of eighth grade students from Saline Middle School who are interested in environmental science. Following a class visit to the library, where we talked about eco-diversity and climate change books in our teen collection, the students asked if they could start a Green Teen club at the library. We brainstormed ideas about what this club would look like and what we wanted to do.”
The group meets after school on the first Monday of every month, determined to build excitement with future projects. “The most fundamental goal for the group is to raise awareness of environmental issues in our communities, locally, regionally, and internationally. The teens are starting with a focus on getting other teens excited and active in taking on green initiatives and working together,” Mitchell said.
The problem with plastics
Al Hodge was the guest speaker at a recent Green Teens meeting. His Ann Arbor company, Hodge Plastics Group, is a consulting organization specializing in plastics while promoting responsible usage and proper recycling and disposal practices. His presentation on the impact of plastics on the environment was an eye-opener for students, sparking discussion on ways to reduce waste and to recycle.
“I’d like to try to figure out how to help people realize that it’s bad for the world to have so much plastic and waste,” said Sydney Higgins, a Saline sixth grader. “I like helping in the community, and I feel really bad about all the trash,” she said. Mitchell said the group hopes to raise awareness of environmental issues in the community. “This includes reducing plastic usage, composting and limiting waste, knowing our food sources, and creating safe and healthy habits for all living creatures,” she added.
Healthy Foods for a Healthy Planet
In April, the group will be participating in a project, Poet-Tree, to celebrate National Poetry Month. The teens will write poems on biodegradable paper that has been infused with wildflower seeds, then place these poems in area woodlands. Later this month, Hether Frayer, from Fresh Food is Fun in Kalamazoo, will visit the library on April 23 at 3pm.
Frayer, a proclaimed Fresh Food Fairy, will sample her Bike Blender smoothies and speak on healthy and local foods.
To learn more about Green Teens and to register for upcoming events, visit salinelibrary.org.
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Al Hodge has spent his entire career in the plastics industry, the third largest industry in the United States, employing over one million people. When it comes to responsible plastic usage, Hodge points to the four R’s.
Refuse: Exclude single use plastics like straws , bags, cutlery and cups.
Reduce: find products that have limited plastic content and packaging.
Reuse: Switch from one-time usage products to reusable products like bags, refillable water bottles and stainless straws.
Recycle: The last resort. Recycling can be effective when plastics are properly collected, separated and processed into a usable pellet.
Composting in Saline Area Schools
Hodge is hoping to collaborate with Green Teens, Saline Community Gardens and Saline Area Schools to develop a composting program, and provides two main reasons to compost.
1. The world’s food system generates about 25 percent of the planet’s warming greenhouse gases.
2. Americans throw out about 20% of the food we buy.
“Through composting, organic food leftovers can be converted into useful fertilizer. The compost program teaches which foods have the greatest impact on our en_vironment and how to make proper choices in food selections. Rather than ending up in a landfill, lunch food scraps can be converted into useful fertilizer.”
- 1500 plastic water bottles are used per second in the United States. Only nine percent of these become recycled. It takes 500 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose.
- Only one of every two hundred plastic bags becomes recycled.
- Want to help? Al Hodge of Hodge Plastics Group encourages people to find ways to reduce waste, like using cloth grocery bags and reusable water bottles.