In the scientific community, it’s common knowledge we have been in a period of anthropogenic climate change for several years.

According to NASA, 2020 is tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, and average temperatures are 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit higher than averages in the 19th century.

Since 1993, Greenland has lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year, and Antarctica has lost an average of 148 billion. In terms of trash, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reports Americans throw away 4.9 pounds of trash per day, and in 2018, we disposed of a total of 292.4 million tons of waste.

It’s clear we are in an era of overconsumption and a climate crisis, and contributing to solutions should be a top PAUSD priority. However, there is no evidence the district has taken steps to improve its waste output and energy conservation.

The PAUSD website claims since 2005, schools have worked in conjunction with the City of Palo Alto to be zero waste by 2021, which would mean schools wouldn’t produce any trash and would only recycle and compost waste.

There is no evidence that this is the case at any school, or that PAUSD has made any clear advancements to reach this goal in recent years. PAUSD administrators did not respond to confirm or deny the accuracy of this claim. The district website also said it rolled out a program promoting zero waste on campuses in 2016, but the impact of this program was the simple installation of signs on waste bins that say what type of trash goes where. 

While the district website reported that there was a 20% reduction of water, electricity and natural gas use since 2011, there is no evidence of PAUSD replacing appliances with those that are Energy Star approved, which is a crucial step towards sustainability.

It is apparent there is a lot of work that needs to be done before PAUSD can be considered sustainable.

For starters, all energy and water bills as well as trash reports should be accessible to the public and published on the district website; currently, there is no numerical data to support their claims of a 20% resource reduction.

Additionally, PAUSD should be investing in replacing appliances with efficient alternatives to reduce energy consumption and prioritizing sustainability over other expenses such as fancier technology or other large projects. PAUSD ought to move forward with the plan to eventually produce zero waste, and should implement mandatory presentations about how students can reduce their trash output on a regular basis. The district should also create an incentive system to students who make an effort to be sustainable by rewarding them with prizes.

It is the district’s responsibility to make environmentally conscious choices; if we aren’t a part of the solution, we are contributing to the problem: the destruction of our planet.

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