Editor’s note: This commentary is part of a regular series, Green Briefs, written by eco-leaders on Vashon, for The Whole Vashon Project. To find out more about the work of this group, visit wholevashonproject.com.
Vashon High School (VHS) Math teacher Jordan Fostering has been advising the VHS Green Team since 2016. He is passionate about the environment, about making positive change and sharing his passion with the 11 students on the Team.
When I asked Fostering about the Team’s goals for 2021-2022, he told me the team plans to reduce the use of disposable masks and lunch waste and to implement a composting system at the schools.
Fostering said the students lead the group, and his job is to help them implement their ideas. The student leaders set the team’s agenda each week, organize events, and recruit new members. I met with them recently to get their views on their work with the Green Team.
TK: What prompted you to join the Green Team?
Maren: I saw it [Green Team] as a really great opportunity to get some leadership experience, make a difference in our community.
Cassie: … I’ve always been interested in conservation.
Rowan: I’ve been on the Green Team since elementary school. I really wanted to do something productive to help the school and was just so worried about climate change. I’ve been on the Green Team ever since.
Clementine: I ran a podcast last year and we interviewed a member of the Sunrise Hub in West Seattle … Sunrise does a lot of work in the community and pushes local government officials to get stuff done … to lower their environmental impact. This was what got me to join the Green Team, and it was really eye-opening and inspiring to see other youth working for this common goal.
Sofie: …We all have different ideas, and everyone’s ideas are heard, which is nice. When we’re deciding on things to do within the school or the community, it is a group decision. It’s inclusive.
Lila: … I want to go to college next year for Environmental Sciences… It’s something I can actively do to make a difference in my field of study for the next year.
TK: What would you like to share with other students to encourage them to join the team?
Maren: I think it’s really important to educate the rest of our community in our school … if we can expand our team, we actually get more things done.
Lila: I also think it’s important to educate people, … about what they can bring home, like making simple adjustments that in the long run can make a difference.
TK: Have you influenced your families to change their lifestyles?
Maren: Yes, my family has a compost bin at my house now. It’s being on the Green Team that has made me look around my household and think about how we could be doing this better.
Rowan: My house is very eco-friendly. We never really throw any food waste into the trash that can be composted. All of it goes into worm bins. We’ve been switching all our lights to LEDs. We’ve been mindful about how much water we’re using, and we’ve been trying to install water-saving appliances so we can keep the watershed healthy. We never, ever, under any circumstances, use chemical fertilizers or pesticides outside … we just want to keep nature alive.
TK: Do you think that a lot of kids are concerned about climate?
Maren: I definitely think it’s a huge issue. Every day I see more and more effects, not only in our own community, but also on the news. I think that it’s important that we do something about it instead of just watching it happen.
So that’s why I think the Green Team is so important. A lot of people probably don’t know how they can make a difference … They just think, ‘oh, I’m just one person, I can’t really do anything about it’… Even now, I think it’s important to use your voice to the best of your ability.
Cassie: I think a lot of us are concerned about it. I’m not sure how much personally, each person is willing to do about it. It’s hard to find specific ways we can do things and be motivated.
These kids feel they are making important decisions for the future. And they’re doing it under the constant reminder that the Earth is approaching a crisis that, if ignored, will have a massive impact on their lives.
My hope is that the Vashon community will step up and support our youth, listen to them, and most importantly, include them in decision making.
Tania Kinnear is a member of The Whole Vashon Project with a focus on Vashon youth.