Green Team helps students be stewards of the Earth

By  Jeremy Keong, Youth Speak News
  • January 13, 2011
Green teamVancouver - The Green Team, a new environmental club at St. Patrick Regional Secondary School in Vancouver, is giving students the opportunity to let the environment take centre stage.

Grade 11 students Veronika Bylicki and Grace Wicken founded the environmental club in September to help the students become more aware of environmental issues that surround them and encourage them to take action in their local community.

“As Catholics we should be stewards taking care of the Earth and of God’s creation,” said Bylicki.

The two co-founders felt that a club of this kind was needed.

In the four months since its inception, the club has started many initiatives at the high school, including a bottle recycling program and an awareness campaign.

“We’ve got a lot of bottles,” said Wicken, who, along with the other members of the club, empty and clean all of the bottles and cans and take them to the recycling depot.

“We’ve also made a whole bunch of posters to put up around the school for education and awareness.”

While the 20-member club is run entirely through the school, The Green Team has also benefited from outside aid. After a presentation and interview process, the club received a $500 grant from the Vancouver Youth Philanthropy Council in mid-November. The club also won a contest put on by ENCORP, a Canadian recycling company, and was awarded recycling bags and containers, which they have used for the club’s recycling program.

The Green Team hopes to have composting bins set up within the next month, using the grant received from the Vancouver Foundation to purchase the bins. The compost will be used in an existing garden that was started by teachers.

“I think that it’s really important for youth to be aware of environmental issues,” said Bylicki. “Especially at school when we could be doing things to help the environment like recycle and compost.”

Both Bylicki and Wicken spent their Grade 10 year in Prince of Wales Secondary School’s TREK outdoor education program, where alongside fulfilling their academic requirements, they were educated about the environment and sustainability.

Eileen Cervi, one of the club’s teacher sponsors, saw this as good timing, also noticing a need for an environmental club at the school.

“They were really excited to come back (to St. Patrick’s) and bring what they’d learned,” said Cervi. “There are a lot of clubs at this school but nothing in this particular area.”

The Green Team also understands it is not helping the environment just for the sake of doing something good.

“To be concerned about the environment is all good, but it’s almost like it’s the new thing on the block,” said Cervi.

“Our students (should) understand that this is not something that is new for us as a Church; this is part and parcel of our heritage, and we need to make people aware of that so that they are able to see their passion as connected to their faith.”

Another club initiative is called action circles, where groups of about five people meet and come up with an environmental challenge to complete.

“This week we’re going to shorten the time that we take our showers by two minutes,” said Bylicki. “We go through the challenges together. It’s more of a motivator.”

Wicken hopes this will help people see that being environmentally friendly is not a point of view that should remain stagnant.

“People in the club (should) be inspired to go out and make changes in their family life and educate people,” she said.

Looking forward, the team is planning an Earth Week in February to speak about recycling and composting.

(Keong, 21, is an English literature major at the University of British Columbia.)

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