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Get out and get green!

Gorham students host green week

Volunteers from Gorham Middle-High School got dirty and gave back with planting almost 100 white pine saplings around Gorham. (Photo by Sally Manikian) (click for larger version)
May 06, 2009
GORHAM — Last week, the Gorham High School Humanitarian Society hosted their first annual "green week" (or "Earth Celebration Week") from April 27-May 1.

In addition to commute to school days, the group came up with a variety of approaches to encourage energy conservation. They went to all grades, took to the parks of Gorham to plant trees, and turned off the lights in the school.

"We decided to do different things and focus on one week," said president Sarah Tremblay. Last year, the Humanitarian Group had organized commute to school days; this year, they wanted to create a spectrum of activities within a single week.

"This year we thought it would be more effective if we had one week in which we tried to advocate for the environment, but in different ways," she said, "like planting trees, creating paper recycling boxes, holding workshops, and of course continuing commute to school green."

The plans were ambitious, with a main event every day. Monday, the Group members went around to each class to gather "pledges" from each student on how they were going to be greener. Tuesday, they planted white pine seedlings around Gorham. To make recycling fun, the students then had a recycling box decorating contest among all the classes; to encourage both recycling and reusing, each class decorated a box for reusable paper (only on one side) and recycling paper (used on both sides). Thursday was the commute to school day.

On Friday afternoon, the Group organized a series of activities for the Middle School students. From 1:30-2:17 p.m., the students participated in activities that were meant to help them further appreciate the world they live in and find ways to be more environmentally aware. Workshops included: calculating the school's carbon footprint, a trivia game, and an activity focusing on rainforest preservation.

"We tried to have workshops that would interest every type of student and I think each one of them walked away with something," Ms. Tremblay said. "If there is one event that has to be continued next year, it's this one."

During the week, the students advocated turning off lights during a block every day, and then having lights off for the entire day on Friday. Turning off lights at the schools should occur beyond the green week, they agreed, and the "Lights Off" campaign was successful. "This is certainly something that should be worked on because I think it is a wonderful concept," said Ms. Tremblay.

Perhaps the most involved and successful event was the tree planting on Tuesday. A group of volunteers headed to four spots around town with Leslie Paine, a professional landscaper and services coordinator for Gorham. Ms. Paine had identified a set of spots ideal for saplings, and roughly 20 to 25 saplings were placed in each location, starting with Libby Field.

"My love is the landscape," said Ms. Paine. Bringing back trees would also help "bring back the quaintness" of Gorham, to the time when trees lined Main Street in abundance.

The students were hopeful about the impact their trees and efforts would have. Putting the trees in a public space might promote more tree planting, said student Ian Carlisle.

"In general, we need more trees," said Emily Host, another student. "It's a habitat."

"I can walk in the woods, I don't need a sidewalk," she added.

Although the saplings are small and unnoticeable now, in four to five years their growth and presence will be more noticeable.

"The tree planting was such a highlight because we were able to get many volunteers who weren't in the Humanitarian Group involved and it gave them a hands on activity in which they could see the ultimate result," said Ms. Tremblay.

The ultimate aim of the week is the broader message, to get students to realize the simple things they can do. "I'm not asking people to get solar panels and stop using electricity, I'm merely saying recycle this newspaper to make a difference instead of throwing it away," said Ms. Tremblay. Turning off lights, recycling a water bottle, or riding a bike to school are all simple ways to adopt greener habits.

"The ultimate purpose of this week was to get students to think in terms of the environment," said Ms. Tremblay.

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