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Richmond Green Team receives national recognition

By Don Fennell

Published 4:48 PDT, Tue May 19, 2020

Last Updated: 3:24 PDT, Thu May 21, 2020

Greta Thunberg may be the best-known of the young environmentalists, but she’s hardly a lone wolf.

All over the world, members of Gen-Z (those born after 2000) are dedicating themselves to finding solutions for a better tomorrow. In Richmond, Wonhee Choi and Edward Zhang are two such individuals.

In Grade 11 and 12 respectively, Choi and Zhang are co-presidents of the Richmond High Green Team—a school-based club recently awarded a $20,000 grant as winners in a nation-wide contest sponsored by Staples. The team is successfully bringing innovative concepts to fruition.

Among their initiatives was the installing of solar panels at the school, a project that included educating peers and the local community about sustainable energy.

As part of renowned Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki’s Butterflyway Project, the Green Team members also implemented a pollinator-friendly garden to provide habitat and food for bees and butterflies. In collaboration with Richmond High’s life skills students, they also weaved nests out of invasive plants, and worked with the school’s art club to paint murals spreading awareness about ocean sustainability. Other projects have included Waste Reduction Week; hosting a waste-free pop shop at which reusable bubble tea cups and straws were used; and Meatless Mondays, a collaboration with the school culinary team to provide vegetarian meals. They’re also hoping to introduce a laptop cart to support the school’s tech education demands.

“Many people are intimidated by the sheer scale of our environmental problems,” explains Zhang. “Thus, we try to educate our student body about the simple steps you can do in your daily lives to help—from waste reduction and recycling. With these efforts we can strive for a more sustainable society together.”

But both say it’s a myth, or at least common misconception, that environmentalism is a niche subject, and only of interest to students hoping to pursue a career in a related field.

And Choi and Zhang fear that as time goes by, the consequences to the climate will only get worse—unless more preventative measures are practiced today.

“We want to show how, no matter what you’re interested in, there are many ways to incorporate some aspect of sustainability,” they say. “Being environmentally responsible is not only up to certain people, but all of us who live on this planet. We will all be impacted by our human actions one day. Rather than choose to be eco-friendly, everyone should be. There is no excuse why we cannot properly divert our waste, think carefully about consumer choices, and take even small green actions. If we cannot teach our own classmates, how can we teach the world to care?”

Teacher sponsor Eugenie Harrison says the passion shown by the young group members is contagious, adding their continuing work is “very inspiring.”

“I’m extremely proud of these passionate young people and what they have achieved,” Harrison says.

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