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Local students attend Youth Climate Summit at Wild Center

November 23, 2010
TUPPER LAKE — Lake Placid was one of 23 high schools and seven colleges that attended the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit Nov. 9 and 10 at The Wild Center.

In addition to attending a variety of workshops, students also presented on the progress they had made in the last year helping to make their schools greener, and they also developed plans for the coming year.

Students from other schools repeatedly held Lake Placid up as a school that has accomplished much in the last year. The Lake Placid environmental club installed a rainwater-collection system, composted and created a garden, among other projects, but that hasn’t made the Lake Placid team lazy or complacent. Four energetic Lake Placid students were practically bubbling over with ideas as they talked about their plans for the next year.

“We’ve got a ton of stuff to do,” said senior Thomas Potter.

Conor Boughton, a senior, said they want to start a battery collection program to make sure batteries are recycled rather than just thrown away, since they can leak acid into soil at a dump.

Similarly, Robert Gregory, a junior, said they want to have a day - probably Earth Day — for people to drop off old computers to have them recycled. And senior Scott Pedu said they want to talk to the local transfer station about taking computers for recycling on a regular basis.

Gregory said they also want to label an outside bin already used for recycling so community members can drop off recyclable bottles as a donation for the club.

Potter said one of the big projects they want to undertake is the school’s transportation system. Last year, the school’s environmental club performed a carbon footprint analysis and found that 75 to 80 percent of the school district’s emissions come from transportation.

“Since that’s the biggest emitter of carbon, we decided to do something about that,” Potter said.

He said they plan to post signs in the drop-off area at the school that educate people about the environmental and monetary costs of parents dropping off their kids at school rather than having them take the bus.

They also want to create initiatives for students to ride the bus. They’re hoping to talk to the local Starbucks about a plan that would allow students to get a card punched whenever they ride a bus and get a free small drink when the card is filled up.

In the long run, Potter said, they also want to take a look at how the bus system is run to address the main reasons students don’t use it: It’s inefficient, and they often have to get up earlier in the morning since it takes so long.

Another related long-term goal is to work to get the school day to start later for the high school. Boughton said it would reduce heating costs if people weren’t at the school until later in the day.

Potter said the team also wants to expand on the idea of gardening, since the school already has a garden. They are looking to visit local farms twice a month to barter with them for seeds, soils and supplies. They also want to start a hydroponic system to grow lettuce and start growing tomato plants in classrooms.

They also came up with the idea of raiding all the classrooms in the school and taking the hand sanitizer from each, since they say it’s ineffective, and start encouraging hand washing instead.

The students said Lake Placid’s success over the last year has inspired and empowered them to make more, bigger changes at their school and in their community.

“We’re trying to start really drastic things,” Potter said. “I think we like making a splash.”

Pedu said the more he gets involved in green movements, the more inspired he gets.

It’s appropriate that Lake Placid students were leaders at the summit, since a Lake Placid High School student was the one who thought the whole thing up.

Zach Berger attended a conference on climate change at The Wild Center in 2008, one of five high school students among about 200 adults. He said he was discouraged by the lack of youth attendance.

So he sent a 2 a.m. e-mail to the Wild Center’s director of programs, Jen Kretser, with an idea to hold a summit with the emphasis on students. He and Kretser share a laugh when they remember how it all got started.

When Kretser saw the e-mail, “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome,’” she said. “To get that kind of e-mail was really inspiring.”

She said she had always had the vague idea that she wanted to do something to gather the youth of the region together.

“When Zach e-mailed me, I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s what we’re going to do,’” Kretser said.

“After that e-mail, things developed into what we have here,” Berger said. “I’m really amazed at how it’s all turned out. I had no idea it would impact over 30,000 people.” That number includes all the people in the school districts that are impacted by the summit.

Students collectively volunteered at least 1,000 hours to prepare for the summit, Kretser said.

Assemblywomen Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, had lunch with summit attendees Wednesday.

“I think it’s a marvelous idea to have a summit like this,” Sayward said. There’s so much talk about climate change, “something has to be done.”

She said it’s important to engage students while they’re still young in coming up with climate change solutions.

“When they graduate and go out into the workforce, they’re going to remember it,” Sayward said. “I think the only way to change is to change our youth, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”


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