This year there has been a surge of green initiatives at Sequoyah involving many student-driven groups advocating for rapid change as a response to the current climate crisis.
Senior Ozzy Simpson initiated Sequoyah’s Sunrise hub, a youth-led group advocating for political action on the climate crisis, after organizing the September Pasadena Climate Strike. Through this, he, as well as other students of Pasadena, have organized multiple climate strikes at Pasadena City Hall and along Orange Grove Boulevard. These strikes have played a crucial role in catalyzing Sequoyah’s spirit of environmental activism while also pressuring the city to institute a Green New Deal. Over President’s Day weekend, members of Sequoyah’s Sunrise hub also traveled to Washington D.C. to attend Sunrise’s middle and high school summit, which taught activist art design, storytelling, and action-planning.
On campus, three ninth and tenth grade Social Innovation Program (SIP) teams have embarked on projects that attempt to tackle different aspects of the climate crisis including air quality, wildfires, and oil drilling. Meanwhile, juniors Theo Schmit, Leon Gold, Sammy Potter and Eamon Lee are working on an Impact Project that is oriented towards plastics. Sequoyah’s Sustainable Campus Stewardship committee is working towards making its own recycled paper and installing reusable water fountains.
Seniors Thomas Logan, Max Adams, and Tor Lansing are currently working on a SIP-related composting initiative as well as a potential community garden for Sequoyah and the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church. Logan says their project is “mitigating the problem of food-waste driven climate change by turning our campus’ food scraps into healthy soil that we can use for the garden.”
When speaking specifically about their process, Logan added: “We’re following (Australian permaculturist) Morag Gamble’s model where we start by preparing the soil. [Then,] we’re going to put down cardboard to keep the weeds at bay, then put compost, manure, and straw that will, as it decomposes, coalesce into a healthy soil. We’re also using the German gardening practice of ‘hugelkultur’ (a type of garden bed that is raised aboveground) where you plant on top of [the garden bed] so it expands your surface area. As the logs decompose, it makes the soil really rich.”
According to RJ Sakai, Sequoyah’s Director of Social Innovation, “There are many other projects related to green work, but right now they are either focused off campus or don’t yet have a geographic home or a site.” He also described the possible introduction of another school-wide initiative: transforming Sequoyah into a zero-waste campus. “It’s a really cool, tangible goal, that can have immediate impact on our campus community, but also is something that could be replicated in other places, and could be scalable.”
In order to implement this, Sequoyah would need to divert 80-90% of its waste away from landfills—meaning that students would need to take the initiative to strengthen on-campus recycling and composting programs. According to Sakai, if implemented, this project could be scaled through a zero-waste campus toolkit which other schools could also utilize.
While Sequoyah seeks to implement these long-term plans, one achievable short-term project is the Sunrise hub’s drop-off strikes. Junior Audrey Bluestone, a member of Sunrise Sequoyah whose SIP and Stewardship projects coalesce with environmental sustainability, said drop-off strikes on Friday mornings in front of the school are an easy way for students to get involved in advocating for climate action. “If you want to join, that’s something the school could do better [in terms of] making it look less like we’re waiting for an Uber and more like we’re doing a strike… It’s easy and a lot of people are already here early so you might as well just step over there!”
Moving forward, reducing waste from the lunch service is a top priority according to Bluestone, as well as limiting general paper usage and implementing an active recycling program. These initiatives would also run in the direction of shifting towards a zero-waste campus. Overall, according to Bluestone: “Sequoyah already does a great job at being eco-friendly in that students already have a lot of awareness about [environmentalism], so I think if we maintain that then we’re on the right path.”