The Earth Corps - Updated Spring 2016
We can't save the planet all by ourselves, but we can do our part. Here are some examples of our involvement in environmental stewardship.
Recycling at OHS has been taken care of by the Earth Corps since 2005. We won the Terry Husseman Sustainable Schools Award three times (each time we applied), so in fairness to other schools, we stopped applying. The award recognizes school groups who have gone above and beyond in efforts to reduce waste, recycle, and promote environmental stewardship though actions - not just words. In addition to the award itself (suitable for framing), we received a monetary award in the amount of $1,000 each time we won.
Composting: The Earth Corps has taken the lead on the composting program in the school cafeteria. We made the informational signs and the sorting stations, and provide assistance to students as they clear their trays. This has further reduced OHS's impact on the waste stream.
We can say with absolute certainty that our combined efforts in waste reduction prevent AT LEAST ONE truck of waste from being hauled over the Cascade Mountains to a landfill in Eastern Washington. Instead, the recyclables go to Tacoma for sorting and then into the recycle stream, and compost goes to south Thurston County for composting and a return to the land. That truck that didn't go would have used up a lot of fuel, and contributed to climate change, and it would cost the school district about $1,000.
The OHS Pond: In 2000, the area known as the "freshman pond" was completely overgrown with weeds and inaccessible. Now after over a decade of dedication, we have an outdoor learning environment. The weeds are mostly gone, and have been replaced with a variety of native plants. A trail and benches have been installed so that classes can relocate to a peaceful and serene environment. We continue to provide necessary maintenance to the pond and surrounding area for the benefit of the entire OHS community.
Henderson Inlet Project: Since 2003, the OHS Earth Corps - in cooperation with Washington State University and Puget Sound Restoration Fund - has been involved in a habitat restoration and the Henderson Inlet Community Shellfish Farm (non profit) at Meyers Point. When this project began, there were restrictions on harvesting shellfish owing to contamination and sedimentation. In 2010, these restrictions were lifted. Our assistance in the effort was acknowledged by local governments, as well as former (and very first) EPA Director, William Ruckelshaus, at a celebratory event at the project site in April 2010.
Ever notice the 8 beautiful Norway maples on the south side of Hall 4? Paid for and planted by the Earth Corps, those trees are removing carbon from the air, and providing passive cooling on hot days to the south-facing science labs.
While our "Actions speak louder than words" approach to environmental stewardship does not always get the attention it so obviously deserves, we are nevertheless very proud of our tangible accomplishments.
We have never received a penny from the Olympia School District or ASB at OHS. Our money comes from our own fundraising (tree planting and habitat restoration at Henderson Inlet), some from the waste contractor, and some from grants.
"EARTH CORPS IS HARD CORE" That's our motto. It doesn't mean what some might think. I means that we're not afraid of getting dirty, and we don't even consider cancelling outdoor work events just because it's nasty and cold and rainy. That's hard core. On the last day of school, when everyone else is out basking in their freedom, a "hard core" group of students stick around to make sure that all of that end-of-year paper and other recyclables is collected and put in the recycle dumpster instead of the trash. That's hard core. The custodial staff do not collect recyclables, because it's not in their contract. We don't get paid to do it, we do it because it needs to be done and no one else is going to do it. That's hard core.
Enjoyment: We have enough money in our account - money we earned from working - to treat ourselves to pizza and the occasional restaurant meal. We typically follow up a nature outing with a dining event. Satisfaction for a job well done and a love of nature motivate us. The "food party" part of it helps us to bond.