When Climate Change Becomes an Educational Endeavor

Sacramento Waldorf School high school students don’t wait for graduation to try to change the world. It has become a de facto part of the curriculum, in part due to the passions students bring to pressing topics and issues. Encouraging teachers give our high school students the platform and the path to explore their passions in meaningful ways through a conscious effort to create confidence and voice in students on our campus. 

Two current seniors, Tyler Cochran-Branson and Riley Day, are examples of this passion and purpose. They are working together on a senior project to raise awareness on campus about climate change and reduce the carbon footprint of both the school and its inhabitants.  

A recent lunch hour had Tyler and Riley in a classroom with a large number of their peers as they watched a video of Trevor Noah interviewing Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who traveled to America in a zero-emissions boat. Greta speaks about the direct impact climate change has on the planet and motivates others, especially teens, to stand up for climate change. 

A few days after the lunch hour video-viewing, Tyler and Riley led other Sacramento Waldorf High School students on a climate strike downtown at the state Capitol. They encouraged teens to carpool or ride light rail to minimize emissions. 

Every month of the year, the pair plan to invigorate the campus with projects aimed at educating and empowering students and faculty to be more climate-conscious. In October, which is compost month, they are starting to compost in the high school – which fits in well with our working farm

“We already have a compost area on the farm here at school,” says Tyler. “We can compost and see where it’s going, how it becomes part of the earth again.” 

Later in the year, they’ll lead a discussion on fast fashion and host a high school clothing exchange, to encourage students to swap attire they no longer wear. Other events will include a focus on reducing water waste, with an effort to clean up the watershed that borders the campus; the Homeless Period Project, which our school has supported for several years; and more. 

“We recently met with the Parent Guild to ask them to switch the plates and bowls and forks that we’re using at bigger events, to ones that can be composted here on the farm,” says Riley. “Most people don’t realize that some recyclable or compostable items have to be commercially composted. Using paper goods is better regardless, but when we can track where our waste is going, we can see how much waste we are producing!” 

Tyler and Riley are aiming to make May a zero waste month in the high school, including a popular charity effort they host, Girl Up. “Our goal this year is to make Girl Up waste-free,” says Tyler. “Last year, we had entire dumpsters full of trash. This year, we want to generate no more than five gallons of trash from this event.” 

“For people our age, it’s hard not to hear about these issues,” says Tyler. “This is a very conscious community. Protecting the environment and the climate is an issue that affects every person on earth right now, and it affects us and our future so deeply. It’s impossible for us not to know about it and impossible to not do anything. I would like to be able to say I did everything in my power to slow the process of climate change.” 

Riley agrees. “Through student government, we wanted to talk about doing more this year,” she says. “We’ve been hearing about it everywhere, and we wanted to implement ideas into our school. It’s a little thing that can make such a big difference for all of us.”