Students Take Action to Better Hawaiʻi's Environment
Students Take Action to Better Hawaiʻi's Environment
Anjali Cash

Last summer, the Steven's World Peace Foundation sponsored five St. Andrew's Schools students – seniors Stephanie Albaña, Catherine Mount, and Anjali Cash, and sophomores, Kira Stoetzer and Kayin Bohnet – to attend an immersive study tour in Bali, Indonesia. Lead and organized by the Pacific Asian Affairs Council (PAAC), the students actively learned about climate change, sustainable tourism, and community development – all of which have been a critical aspect of Bali's social and political welfare. Most importantly, they were tasked to bridge the gap between Bali and Hawaiʻi by identifying ways they could make a difference in their local communities. To do this, the students used Balinese communities and leaders – such as Aska and Tomo Hamakawa, the CEOs of Earth Company – as inspiration for project ideas they could possibly implement at home in Hawaiʻi. Identifying many environmental issues that Hawaiʻi faces compared to Bali, they decided to unify their projects to focus on sustainability. Specifically, their projects would aim to educate and involve the St. Andrew's Schools community in applying permaculture principles and improve awareness of environmental sustainability.

After months of thoughtful planning and preparations, they executed sustainable gardens, reinvented spirit events, created art and upcycling exhibits, and organized environmental volunteer opportunities for the school community.

Kira Stoetzer organized a school field trip to participate in the "Tour de Trash" at H-Power and the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill in hopes that students would be exposed to the reality of Hawaiʻi's waste management system, and arguably the lack thereof, in terms of environmental protection. This served as a prelude for the end of the year goal which is to present an art exhibit, titled "InTent," at the Exhibition Fair in May which will highlight the dangers of trash pollution. By taking a serious issue and portraying it in an artistic form, she hopes to inspire the student community beyond simple facts and instigate a deeper connection towards the effects of pollution and waste management in Hawaiʻi.

Stephanie Albaña, also the founder of Priory's ECO-PAAC Club, highlights the importance of permaculture gardening in her project. Permaculture is an ethically based design system for gardening that utilizes natural resources to provide shelter and nutrients to garden plants, without damaging natural ecosystems. According to her research, Hawaiʻi imports 90% of its food due to a lack of land. However, this is completely unsustainable and leaves a massive carbon footprint. Working alongside ECO-PAAC students, she has successfully implemented Priory's very own permaculture garden with herbs, vegetables, and flowers to raise awareness on the issue of sustainability and encourage students to create their own gardens.

Working with members of the ECO-PAAC club, Catherine Mount headed an initiative that focuses on paper recycling. Inspired by the variety of upcycling products in Bali, she wanted to shed light on a simple, yet overlooked material at school, paper waste. Every week, members of the club collected unused and thrown away paper and calculated the waste to amount to two pounds per week. In an effort to combat and further bring attention to this issue, she was the student lead on the St. Andrew's Schools team for the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, an event organized by MoraLab with the support of the University of Hawaiʻi whereby students, faculty and other community volunteers spent a day planting trees at Gunstock Ranch. In total, they were able to plant 30 trees. "As we go through the school year, I'm excited to see what students do with this information regarding our school's consumption habits and hopefully make mindful choices to eliminate paper waste," said Mount.

Filled with gratitude, the group is happy to have found unique outlets for social and environmental activism and to have been able to share it with their peers. It is their hope that these projects have in some way inspired their classmates to find what they are passionate about and that they too pass it on.