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Looking for Ways to Be Green? Check Your Locker

July 9th, 2013 by

This is a guest blog post by Manlius Pebble Hill High School student Hannah Lukow.

Zero dollars. That was the budget for the environmental club at Manlius Pebble Hill School of Syracuse, New York. At first, it seemed like our ability to change things was similar to the size of our budget. A green roof would put us out 10 to 24 thousand dollars. An update for the antiquated heating system in our oldest building would cost upwards of 20 thousand dollars. Expanding our school garden would require money for equipment, seeds, and space.

It occurred to me that while these proposed projects were important, they were narrow in scope. Yes, it would be fabulous to build and create more potential for sustainability on campus. But something should be said for the ethic of “less.” It is equally as important to keep only what we use, and to ethically dispose of what we don’t. The idea of a locker clean out was consistent with this thinking. It didn’t cost anything. We didn’t have to buy materials or supplies. Everything we needed was jammed, stuffed and crammed into our neglected lockers.

With assistance from the maintenance staff and a coalition of student volunteers, we were able to collect over 300 gently used books and over a hundred notebooks, binders and folders. These items were donated to the Mary Nelson Center, an organization that provides resources to underprivileged students in Syracuse. For the things that couldn’t be donated, we filled up eight recycling bins and twelve trash bags. Our volunteers worked hard to make sure that each item was disposed of properly, even when it meant washing out three-month-old soda bottles.

So for the resounding price of zero dollars, our environmental club was able to recycle hundreds of items that would have otherwise been trashed, to donate books and school supplies that were not being used, and to educate our entire school about recycling in the process. Do not underestimate the value of working with what you have and doing what you can—the potential for a more sustainable school could be sitting in your locker!

“MPH Green Avengers” Facebook page:

MPH website:

Mary Nelson’s website: