ETHS students team up to offset school paper usage through tree planting


Illustration by Angeli Mittal

ETHS used 5.6 million sheets of paper in the 2018-2019 school year, according to D202 Chief Financial Officer Mary Rodino

Wendy Klunk, Reporter

With the goal of offsetting 50 percent of their school’s average annual paper consumption, three Evanston Township High School student activists are planning a campaign to plant at least 280 trees across Evanston and neighboring communities.

Aiming to set the project into motion April 24, the students are partnering with Tree-Plenish, a non-profit organization that has worked with over 85 schools across the country to encourage sustainability through community action. Mack’s Bike and Goods is sponsoring the project. Evanston community members can now purchase one or more trees (which will come as 18-24 inch saplings) at the project’s website.

ETHS senior and project co-leader Mia Houseworth said she hopes the campaign will launch more conversation about environmental issues in Evanston.

“Having to plant 280 trees and that only being 50 percent of our annual paper usage is pretty eye-opening,” Houseworth said. “I think it’s extremely important that we’re replenishing resources back into the environment, along with the trees just being really pretty to look at in everybody’s home. I think planting a tree in your yard connects people to conservation, so it’s an educational opportunity as well.”

Houseworth and project co-leader ETHS senior Sarika Waikar have served as co-founders and co-chairs on the ETHS Sustainability Committee since 2019, and have helped to successfully implement a number of environmental initiatives at their school. They spearheaded a composting program in student and staff cafeterias, and led a switch from bottled to boxed water in the vending machines.

ETHS sophomore and third co-leader Maggie Finneran said she expects the team to run into a few challenges before meeting its 280-tree goal.

“Getting people to request trees and the coronavirus are probably going to be huge impacts on this, because we’re going to have to figure out a way to have this event but still follow the guidelines,” Finneran said. “Right now, we’re sort of more focused on getting people to buy trees. And then, as the day approaches, we’ll start planning more and more how we’re physically going to get it done.”

The project leaders are planning to meet soon with ETHS staff as well as Leslie Shad from Natural Habitat Evanston to develop logistics to ensure all of the project’s work is sustainable.

Waikar said she’s passionate about helping conserve the planet and has high hopes for the project’s impact on Evanston.

“If I can be actively part of making a visible, necessary change within my school and community, I can only hope for others to do the same, because this initiative, let alone the entire climate crisis, must be solved with unity,” Waiker said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @WKlunk

Related Stories: 

— (Sun)Rise Up: ETHS students take on climate crisis

City-School Liaison Committee reviews sustainability, summer programs