Student interns who worked on environmental initiatives with the Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame are (from left), Brennan McDonald and Mark Habelt, both of Burlingame High School, Christopher Noll of San Mateo High School and Grace Zhang of Mercy High School.
On May 16, four high school students who participated in the Environmental Internship Program offered by the Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame (CEC) described what worked and didn’t work during the 18 months they tried to advance environmental measures at their schools. The program has proven so successful that CEC is planning to expand it to students throughout San Mateo County during 2019.
Grace Zhang of Mercy High School, whose goal was to improve recycling at her school, found that posting flyers around the campus didn’t work. Instead, she created a video about recycling do’s and don’t that will be shown to incoming freshmen. She also worked with a recycling expert to reposition recycling bins and label them with explanatory signs.
Christopher Noll of San Mateo High School upgraded recycling signage on containers in every classroom at his school and made sure they were lined with clear bags to facilitate accurate sorting. He planned to hold rally to drum up student support, but school officials told him it was too late in the year to accommodate his request.
Mark Habelt and Brennan McDonald, both of Burlingame High School, focused on persuading the San Mateo Union High School District and local parents to opt up to ECO100, the slightly more expensive plan offered by Peninsula Clean Energy that supports all-renewable energy. They corresponded and met with district and city leaders; made presentations at a school board meeting, a CEC program, and Parents Group and PTA meetings; and wrote letters to the Daily Journal and an article for their school’s paper. The school board hasn’t approved the additional $71,000 it would cost to opt up to ECO100, but both students said they were pleased to hear that many parents signed up for ECO100 after talking with them.