BY GRACE PAUL
When one thinks of Carmel Unified School District, one thinks of a relatively eco-friendly place. After all, the middle school focuses heavily on being environmentally friendly with its use of the Hilton Bialek Habitat, and even the high school has a class dedicated to environmental sciences and an active environmental club. So when the district applied for the Green Ribbon Award, an award given out to sustainable schools by the U.S. Department of Education, most people think that CUSD would make a good candidate.
But just because the middle school is a great example of a sustainable school it does not mean the rest of the district is. Carmel High School is a case where rules are commonly put in place only to be ignored or taken back.
One of the honorees for California from 2019 is Rialto Unified School District. RUSD has run several projects over the past few years and has replaced its landscape with drought-resistant plants and installed devices to reduce water usage; water usage was reduced by 24 percent as a result. Additionally, they constantly use current environmental issues in their classes to help teach. This simply isn’t the case at Carmel schools, and most often the environment isn’t considered a priority.
For example, the high school virtually lacks a recycling system. Years ago, the district bought trash cans labeled with “waste,” “recyclables” and “compost.” Students did not follow the labels, and eventually the school decided to get rid of the “compost” option.
When the bleachers or amphitheater are full of trash after lunch, the worst punishment dealt is not being able to sit there for the next few days. The issue of trash is not brought up nearly as much as at the middle school. At Carmel Middle School, if there is an issue, not only is that area closed, but it is brought up by teachers and by science and drama teacher Pat Stadille at the weekly assemblies. The environment is always a big part of the conversation, and there is a level of accountability.
At CMS, all sixth graders are required to take a class called “Eco-Lit.” There, students learn about helping the environment by doing hands-on activities. They also have to sort the school’s trash into separate buckets based on how and where they can be recycled. From this, they learn to be more responsible while sorting their trash. At the high school, students aren’t told to focus on the environment nearly as much, and helping the environment becomes less of a priority.
Another problem takes its shape in energy use. At RUSD, there have been many projects to reduce energy use. Solar energy covers 80 percent of their energy use, and a bit of the remaining energy is also renewable.
Renewable energy is not a top priority at CUSD, and with the amount of energy used, it should be more important. The district has run energy conservation projects in the past, but a problem still arises when it comes to appliances in classrooms. Often there are microwaves, mini-fridges and electric kettles in classrooms, and they often aren’t unplugged over breaks, wasting lots of power. Though it does not seem like a major problem, the power use adds up over time, as it is a problem throughout the district, not just at the high school.
Overall, the Carmel district is an environmentally aware district, but isn’t exactly environmentally friendly or sustainable, and it definitely does not deserve a reward for its minimal efforts.