Carbon Neutral Initiative: A Step Towards a Zero-Emission School — Earth Day Blog

Saumya Soni

Earth Day is all about appreciating our planet which has nurtured us with abundant resources and paying back the care and health. Today on this special day, let me share with you an exciting initiative which I have contributed to.

I, Saumya, cofounded the Environmental Club at Eastside Preparatory School to create a positive impact on the environment. In this club, I along with other students (including Luci Johnston and Krithika Gopalakrishnan who are also part of the nonprofit aiforenvironment.org) created the Carbon Neutral Initiative. Every year, our high school provides spring trips locally and internationally. Obviously, these school trips contribute to the high level of greenhouse gas emissions. So, as young adults who will endure the effects of climate change, we found it necessary to develop a program allowing families to lower their carbon footprint. So, we proposed an initiative to offset carbon emissions by partnering with Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-profit that plants trees.

We chose Eden, which is based in Madagascar because, they plant mangrove trees, which have higher carbon dioxide absorption rates than other trees because they sequester CO2 in the peat soil below their roots. Eden is also more affordable for a school setting because they plant 1 tree for every 10 cents. Eden also employs people in the local communities, and their management is almost exclusively Malagasey, which means the money donated goes directly back into the local communities to uplift families there.

Then we set up a system of online resources to calculate the amount which families needed to donate to Eden to plant the correct amount of trees to offset the emissions from their child’s trip. Last year was supposed to act as a sort of trial run, but of course, Covid-19 hit a couple of weeks before the trips were supposed to run. But even though the school trips didn’t end up happening, many families still wanted to show their support for the program, and we raised over $1,050 to plant trees.

This year, the school is holding some remote and local trips, so we had a second shot at the Carbon Offsets Initiative. Even though we’re still a week out from the trips, we have already fundraised over $2,875 which means 28,750 new trees will soon be in the ground in Madagascar because it only costs 10 cents to plant 1 tree! Eden has already planted over 485 million trees, some of which were funded by donations from our initiative last year!

You might be wondering why It’s still necessary to offset online learning trips…Well, this is because streaming videos, video calling, and other internet-related things, emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide. In fact, a study shows that video calling exceeds the impact of driving if the drive is less than 20km away. This is because of servers that run on fossil fuels.

So what happens next? We are expanding the Carbon Neutrality Initiative to allow families to offset the carbon from their entire school experience, as well as non-school-related activities. We are working to provide easy access to resources like online carbon footprint calculators so that people can increase the positive impact they have.

Down the road, we hope to convince the school to become fully carbon neutral by making the habit of donating yearly. Choosing to offset carbon requires shifting the norm, our school is up for the task. We’re just one school. But who knows, maybe this is a beginning that will inspire other schools to consider the benefits of carbon neutrality, and we can help them along.

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