Earth Day was started in 1970 by Wisconsin’s very own senator, Gaylord Nelson, who treasured Wisconsin’s natural features and who spent much of his political career working to preserve them. Earth Day was the perfect way to raise awareness about the damage humans have done to the environment, and it has continued to be recognized throughout the country.
Since then, many organizations have worked to continue Nelson’s mission and promote sustainable living. One such organization at Middleton High School is Green Team. Formed in 2019, Green Team started as a culmination of the Ecology Club and Environmental Committee, two clubs that had previously worked separately toward similar goals. Bringing them together created a more organized effort to increase environmental awareness and sustainable practices at Middleton High School. Green Team now works to encourage people to “be more conscious and think about the environment and what you’re contributing,” in the words of Green Team Vice President Abby White.
Green Team consists of four subcommittees that each have a specific focus related to the environment. One subcommittee focuses on elementary school visits to educate younger members of the community; one works on the fashion thrift Instagram (@mhs.green.thrifts), a collaboration with MHS Fashion Club, where Middleton High School students can buy and sell used clothing; another runs a Green Team TikTok (@mhsgreenteam) to encourage people to use more sustainable practices; and the final one works on various recycling initiatives, currently running a plastic bag drive and making recycling tutorial videos for elementary schoolers that focus on fun ways to reuse single-use plastics, like making a plastic bottle into a planter.
Green Team also works to facilitate recycling for Middleton High School by creating a system to donate sawdust from woodshop classes to farms to be used as animal bedding or compost, holding multiple plastic bag drives, and setting up TerraCycle and ColorCycle collection programs at Middleton High School. TerraCycle works to recycle many items that can’t be recycled through the general recycling system, including (but definitely not limited to) EOS containers, BIC pens, and Gillette razors, and Crayola’s ColorCycle program repurposes used markers.
Despite the pandemic, Green Team has continued working to help the environment. So far this year, Green Team has visited Pope Farm Elementary a few times to educate students about the importance of leading sustainable lives with fun, interactive activities, and they hope to visit all of the elementary schools by the end of the year. They have also organized a plastic bag drive where they collect plastic grocery bags and bring them to the Middleton Recycling Center to be recycled; currently, they have a plastic grocery bag collection bin outside the front of the high school. The Middleton Recycling Center itself is also a great resource for items that can’t be recycled through the general recycling system. Green Team makes it a lot easier to recycle items, but it is up to the Middleton High School community to take advantage of those opportunities.
Recycling is great, but reducing the number of things you use is even better. As Green Team President Daphne Joyce Wu states, “We’ve created a culture where we consume things so quickly and then just toss them out without thinking about where that’s gonna end up or the environmental damage that does, so I feel like if there’s anything that anyone can do, it’s just looking at your daily lifestyle and see where you can cut down on things. And a lot of those times you don’t need to spend a lot of money to reduce, you don’t have to spend a lot of time or energy, you just think about it consciously.”
Whether or not you are interested in joining Green Team, Earth Day should inspire you to lead a more sustainable lifestyle by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
If you do want to get involved, join Green Team by filling out their interest form to be added to an email chain containing the Zoom links and times of their meetings. You can also volunteer at the Middleton Recycling Center to help people sort their recyclable items into the center, or you can volunteer at the Forward Garden, a community garden that grows vegetables to donate to Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM).