What is MHS Doing to Stop the Climate Crisis?

Edie Koehlert

The last four years have wreaked havoc on Montclair High School’s infrastructure. The collapsed stairs, asbestos, and flooding do not need to be rehashed, but the school has done significant construction to resolve some of these issues. With all this construction and a recent push to carbon neutrality comes the need to rebuild with an eye towards environmental sustainability. 

The plan seemed like it was to keep buying materials and fixing things in a reactive way. As unexpected structural and weather-related events caused the district to react piecemeal to construction concerns, it seemed as though regenerative solutions would never be a part of the conversation.   Meanwhile, the tax dollars of Montclair’s citizens were simply investing in an endless cycle of reactionary fixes that had schools opening the windows and turning up the heat.  or at the very least a more effective buffer. 

However, small steps are being taken: “This is an opportunity to really take advantage of an unfortunate situation,”  Principal Jeffrey Freeman said.  in a conversation about what MHS is doing to create environmentally sustainable systems in the school. 

“How can we save money and at the same time be more energy-efficient?… We can start with the lighting” says Mr. Freeman. Introducing energy-efficient lightbulbs and water-saving bathroom faucets and stalls are little things that the school is slowly implementing right now. 

As part of a larger plan Mr. Freeman is, “.. going to do is get Montclair High School a part of the New Jersey Sustainable Schools… once we have a green team with teachers, parents, students… they [NJ Sustainable Schools] will help you identify ways to become more sustainable… you may be able to receive a grant… We can get a larger grant with a bigger school”. 

This is a long-term goal— but there are plans in the works. Simply providing more recycling bins and actually educating students about what can be recycled will be something easy that makes a difference. If the school actually recycles the right plastics, (In Montclair, if 1,2, or 5 is written on the plastic, it can be recycled) that little change would make a difference in the grand scheme of things— creating students who become citizens that know how to recycle the right way. 

As Biden’s energy plan comes out for the whole country— a plan that’s been called ambitious by most, to reduce carbon emissions by fifty percent from 2005 levels by 2030— it’s important to reflect on the local level.

“The ultimate goal would be creating environmentally conscious global citizens… educating students is key”. We will see how many of the school’s ideas come to fruition, but there are a few things that students can still do. Keep learning about sustainable and regenerative practices, and doing the things that you can to make a positive impact. 

You don’t have to go vegan or devote your life to environmental consciousness, but having the mindset that you can affect change as an individual person is the most important thing to realize. 

Even if Biden’s plan turns out to be empty promises that are quickly reversed by the next administration or the one after that, students must continue to hold themselves to a higher standard. They’re the ones who have to hang around here after all of them are gone.