Does Osbourn Say Yes To Sustainability?

Plastics affect our earth critically and have been a big problem for centuries, and while some have tried to make a change, for such a big issue it is alarming how many people turn a blind eye to it. Plastic resources are globally used everywhere, by everyone, and even though it is a convenient and easily disposable resource, we might need to start making changes in order to save our environment from spiraling.

A report from a California school showed that they produced about 562,442 tons of plastic waste each year, because of the number of unrecyclable products found in that school building. Seeing the issue in retrospect, and reflecting on it, has some teachers concerned about what results will come from our ongoing plastic production.

“So as you probably know plastic is a by-product of the petroleum-making process which is already harmful to the environment. Plastic also takes forever to decompose. For example, plastic water bottles can take up to 450 years to decompose,” said former science teacher, Eric Godwin. “When there are plastic products that are littered in our ecosystem it can be very harmful to the organisms that live there. Microorganisms such as bacteria can not break down the plastic and macro-organisms such as birds, turtles, and others could consume or get stuck in the plastic causing self-harm.”

When it comes to Osbourn, overall there is still work to be done ecologically in order to reduce the number of disposable products that enter, and the amount of waste that exits. Even if it is minor changes that slowly convert us into a more eco-responsible school, there are many possibilities, and options open to build off of. But the most vital part of working towards being a more sustainable school is having students, and teachers who are motivated and feel they are environmentally aware of what is actually happening in our world.

“I try my best to be environmentally aware, but I’m sure there are lots of things that I don’t know,” said freshman Sophia Vandivere.

“[Do you consider yourself environmentally aware] Yes, I am super eco-friendly,” said junior Maryam Ahmadi. “I always think about the impact that we might be making in our environment, but I try to do my best to have a positive impact with the simple things that everyone can do.”

One good thing that Manassas City Public schools had been doing in the past, was recycling. Sadly over the years, as students began to neglect the bins, abusing their purpose, they had to be removed. Many students and teachers believe they should be brought back, in hopes of the newly aware population using them for their correct purposes. Recycling could possibly be a great start to becoming a more environmentally-sound school.

“We need to make it so people don’t have to go out of their way to recycle,” said freshman,  Alice Hertz. “Add a recycling can for every trash can.”

“[We should] Hold a recycling bin decorating contest, Get creative with recycling bins. Schedule a trash pickup day. Add indoor plants,” said junior Maryam Ahmadi.

But even before we add these recycling bins back, we need to make sure the past doesn’t repeat itself. Knowing how recycling bins were treated prior, some feel we even need to be sure of the fact that they’re going to be used correctly before putting forth the consideration, to get them back in the buildings.

“I would say the cafeteria, classrooms, and hallways [are where we need the most improvement]. We used to have recycling, but people used the recycling bins for trash so often that it became pointless to continue,” said English teacher, Eryn Reece. “The first thing we would need to do is have a culture where it isn’t ok to dump your trash wherever you want, like, desks, hallways, stairwells, etc. If we can be more conscientious of what we do with our consumables when we’re done with them, then we can start talking about things like recycling and using reusable materials.”

It is common to believe we only need to make physical changes in order to get people more motivated to become environmentally aware, and yes that is important, but educational factors are also a factor that needs to be included. Overall in the classroom, very few times are global issues talked about. We stick to a core curriculum, that sometimes seems to shy away from ongoing issues. A possible solution to getting students educated on ecological issues is bringing it up. Exposing kids to these real-life affairs that are going on in our world. Many agree that we are not confronted enough with this information in the classroom, and because of that, students are not aware of what negative effects we might be having on our planet.

“[How can OHS improve is] Education. Classes don’t talk much about climate change, or environmentalism generally, which contributes to a population ignorant of one of the biggest issues facing the human race,” said OHS and Governor School alumni, Zane Vandivere.  “We should somehow integrate discussion of/learning about environmentalism into core classes. Not sure how, but that is why I am not a school administrator.”

These past few years, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic caused a major spike in pollution with the immense use of masks, gloves, wipes, etc. But still, there are positives that have come from it.

“Before students came back after the shutdown, we bought these robot-looking things that you can put into a room to disinfect it. It uses UV light, so we use fewer chemicals and consumable paper towels and wipes to clean. We were also one of the first schools in Northern Virginia to start using one-to-one computers, which drastically lowered how much paper we use,” said English teacher, Eryn Reece reflecting on the pandemic’s impact.

That is just one of the many things Osbourn has done to be an overall more resource-efficient school. Even when we reflect, and see room for improvement, it is still beneficial to applaud what good things we have done so far on our journey to become a more environmental school.

“I think Osbourn does a good job with the refillable water bottle stations, so people aren’t throwing away their plastic bottles,” said senior Jahquez Salmon.

“I think OHS does a pretty good job on managing its plastic use and products. When it comes to our cafeteria plastic use, I know our student body does a great job of using water bottles that are refillable/ reusable instead of plastic ones, so they are not used as often. The milk cartons are not plastic either, which is great,” said science teacher, Eric Godwin. 

Overall, even when the gradual progression of sustainability is shown, it can give a sense of hope for our future, and its generations. Osbourn High School acknowledges and has made many contributions to the environment, which is great and is something we should keep doing in the future.

“The environment around us is not only our home but everything that keeps us alive. From the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, our shelter, and more, it helps us to survive. Therefore, caring for the environment is something that should be inherent in us,” said junior Maryam Ahmadi.