Students, staff practice living sustainably, discuss importance of environmental movement

January 4, 2021

In a school of over 5,000 students, there are bound to be different talents, terms of expression and passions, but not many can say their passion surrounds the environment like sophomore Maanya Rajesh, leader of Green Action Club at Carmel High School.

“I started off in seventh grade learning about the dairy industry and the impacts that had on the environment,” Rajesh said. “I started doing a lot of research and came across veganism, which started my path towards environmental activism. I read a lot of blogs about the importance of our environment.”

Maanya Rajesh, co-leader of Green Action Club and sophomore, carries buckets of compost materials to add to her compost pile. Rajesh said she created Green Action club because she really cares about the environment and wants to bring awareness to saving the planet at CHS. Photo by Emily Sandy

Rajesh said she created Green Action Club this year because she is really passionate about the environment and what her school could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring awareness.

Rajesh is not alone in this devotion to creating a sustainable environment. Junior Kai Tomcho, a member of Green Action Club, also does his best to live sustainably and encourages his friends to do so as well.

“I tell all my friends to take really quick showers and recycle. (They’re) kind of simple things, but towards the future it will make a bigger impact especially if we’re saving plastics and water,” Tomcho said.
Beyond the club, Rajesh said she uses the knowledge she has of environmental issues in her everyday life.

“I think it’s really important to live sustainably,” she said. “I really believe in practicing what you preach, and a lot of the time people advocate for all these policies, but when the government doesn’t do its job in protecting the environment, I feel like it falls back onto the people to really make a difference.

“Something that I really think is important is self action. Global warming and climate change are huge issues happening at very rapid rates, and everyone doing the little things that they can do to make an impact on the environment — whether it be carpooling, not using plastic bags, utensils — makes a difference.”

Kara House, former AP environmental science teacher, said she agreed with Rajesh that the responsibility of protecting the earth boils down to each individual.

“Living sustainably can help preserve Earth’s undeveloped areas and biodiversity. It can also help provide humans with clean water, air and other resources. With so many people on Earth, it’s important that every person does their part to help make Earth livable for generations to come,” House said via email.

Tomcho said he began his sustainable lifestyle with the influence of his mother, who also believes in protecting the environment.

Kai Tomcho, left, Ella Yates, center and Annie Surrette, right, listen in on a discussion about how youth should stand up for the environment. Stoehr said he lives sustainably at home. Photo by Emily Sandy

“(My mother’s) parents have always told her to live that lifestyle and kind of help the environment more, so then she influenced me and my sister (to do the same),” Tomcho said.

According to Tomcho, his main goal is to convince his friends to live the same type of sustainable life that he and his family do.

“Right now, I’m telling them just to reduce everything and start slow, but eventually start helping instead of doing what they do.” Tomcho said.

For House, she said she finds education at the forefront of living sustainably.

“My focus is to make my own ecological footprint as small as possible, but to also share ideas with others so that more and more people are informed about the importance of living sustainably and knowledgeable about ways to do it,” she said.

Likewise, Rajesh said she focuses on her personal ecological footprint.

“I have started composting at my house and I don’t use any plastic utensils,” she said. “When I go to fast food (restaurants) I bring my own containers. I am a vegan, and methane is a huge part of the environment.The dairy industry contributes to about 80% of that, and that makes up about 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That being said, it’s just a really good change people can make in their lives. Through that, I have been able to reduce my own emissions.”

Tomcho and Rajesh both said they see their involvement in and outside of Green Action Club as a benefit to the environmental movement and want to continue the initiative.

Rajesh said, “Green Action Club has definitely been able to promote our message of sustainability and educating others through one of the projects where we go to elementary schools and teach kids the idea of sustainability in order to get the message out there, because it is vital to prepare the younger generations.”

With additional reporting done by Emily Sandy
Originally published by the Carmel High School Hi Lite on March 20, 2020.

Students, staff practice living sustainably, discuss importance of environmental movement