Going green

Chronicle Staff

Returning from taking advantage of her off-campus senior privileges, Amanda Epstein ’07 tried to pull her small car into her impossibly small parking space, but was stopped by the sight of a huge SUV with a paper license plate squeezed into the space next to her.

“It makes me so angry and surprises me when I see that people still choose to buy new huge cars when it is so easy to buy an environmentally friendlier smaller car or hybrid,” she said.

“But I have seen a lot more hybrids in the parking lot, which is encouraging.”

Epstein wasn’t wrong in her observation. According to Kevin Giberson, director of inter campus security, there has been a 10 percent increase in hybrids on school grounds in the past three to four years and a 15 percent decrease in SUVs in that same time frame.

With the recent attention gained from politicians and celebrities attending high profile events in their hybrid cars, the fight to protect Mother Nature is stronger than ever.

The phenomenon has been publicized in the media and projected in movies, such as Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary that portrays the slippery slope the world faces if it continues to abuse the environment.

“After I saw the movie, I was so moved and became so motivated to try and reverse the damage that has already been done that when I left the theater, the first thing I did was call my parents asking to sell my SUV and buy a hybrid,” Jenna Marine ’08 said.

Students are now catching on to this trend by downsizing their vehicles and buying hybrid cars, peaking at 22 in the school parking lots.

“I feel so bad when I drive around in other cars,” Gered Williams ’07 said. “If a perfectly functional car uses so much less gas, then why not? I feel like there is a lot more I can do, but I am attempting to do what little I can to help the environment.”

Williams is not the only student who is responding to this growing trend.

At the annual activities fair, Jenny Ingersoll ’07, the president of the Environmental Club, was bombarded with students eager to sign up.

The club has grown from seven members to 49.

The environmental trend is sweeping through the clothing industry too.

“Many businesses are finding out, as Jeffrey Imelt, president of GE, famously said: ‘Green is green,’ Lisa Foster, a former upper school English teacher who left to develop a line of environmentally friendly shopping bags, said.

“That is, being environmental is good for business,”

Jeff Marine (Jenna ’08 and Jillian ’10), president of clothing companies, Jemsportswear and Awake, is implementing Imelt’s famous words in his own business.

“A lot of my customers are now interested in ecologically friendly clothing. So now, I am starting a line where we organically grow the cotton,” Marine said.

“The crop is grown without any type of chemicals that harm the environment, and if a shirt has a certain print, the chemicals used are ecologically friendly. Although we pay extra money to the cotton growers, it is worth it because we think our customers are going to like buying clothing like that.”

Although it is not apparent that the clothing has been made by paying careful attention to the environment, the clothing says “made with environmental care” on the tag.

“In the next five years most of all clothing will fit into this category of ‘made with environmental care,’ Marine said.

“Global warming is becoming a big issue, and it is my responsibility like other big corporations to leave our world in a better place then when we started.”

James De Matte, director of campus operations, said the school has instituted new programs and products to help the environment, including a new take on recycling.

“We do recycling with an interesting twist. There are recycling cans all around school but a lot of times students don’t see them or just don’t recycle. So the maintenance goes through the trash cans and if there are any recyclables, then they can take them and trade them for money at the stations,” De Matte said.

“It is a good way to make extra money and also the number of recyclables in the trash is almost none.”

Harvard-Westlake owns a total of three busses and has changed one to CNG, composed natural gas, which emits basically water.

The school plans to exchange the other two busses as well in the next two years.

It has changed pool heaters to Hi-E heaters, which are 95 percent more efficient and save natural gas and money, De Matte said.

“Also, there are paper bins in classrooms filled with recycled paper,” he said.

“In about 10 years, when the school is redone, I hope the school will implement new ways to help the environment like positioning the school in relation to the sun or maybe even have charging stations for cars,” Giberson said.