A Close Look Into the Byram Hills Sustainability Initiative Club

The Byram Hills Sustainability Initiative Club (BHSI), advised by Ms. Bogren and run by President Jane Zeltner, strives for students to take part in and create initiatives to mediate environmental problems of interest. Through an interview with Ms. Bogren, an Oracle writer reports on what initiatives are planned for the 2021-2022 school year, as well as the goals of the club.

By Audrey Goldberg

The halls are abuzz with talk about the Byram Hills Sustainability Initiative Club due to their Halloween TerraCycle program. This, however, is only one of the BHSI’s many ongoing projects.

So far, there are three initiatives installed for this year. The first initiative is called “Quick Pop Tabs.” This initiative is run by senior Jane Zeltner. The school collects the pop tabs, the metal pieces from soda can tops, and sends them to the Ronald McDonald organization. From there, they are recycled to raise money for the families who live at Ronald McDonald facilities while their children are receiving cancer treatment. This initiative started out as a collaboration with the YAC (Youth Against Cancer) Club. This collaboration is mutually beneficial, as it promotes both the Ronald McDonald house program and recycling.

You can deposit your pop tabs in the receptacle outside the cafeteria.

The second initiative, TerraCycle, was introduced by and is currently run by Byram Hills High School Sustainability Committee member Penny Geller. TerraCycle is a private recycling company funded by organizations, like Proctor and Gamble, that takes items not typically recyclable and turns them into materials to produce new goods. The BHSI Club will take action by promoting a monthly collection of items that can be TerraCycled. For example, because of Halloween, the club is collecting candy wrappers for the month of October. Other examples of items that will be collected in the future include cosmetic products and toothpaste tubes. 

The last current initiative is the Bulb and Battery Collection Drive. This initiative was also introduced by Penny Geller. Ms. Bogren feels that this initiative has been “hugely successful” because students, faculty, and staff are starting to anticipate that it will be held semi-annually, once in November and once during Earth Week. She explained that even periodically, students and faculty members will bring her their bulbs and batteries for her to stash under her desk until the drive. 

Last spring in the Global Scholars program, year one students were tasked with designing a prototype for combatting an effect of climate change. One group of students created a punch card that will be installed as a new initiative in the BHSI club. Each student and faculty member will receive a punch card, and when they bring their own reusable mug to the Byram Bean, they will get a hole punch in their card. After ten punches, the individual will earn a brand new Byram Hills reusable coffee mug. 

Ms. Bogren spoke about a past initiative that she would like to reinstate. This Initiative, “Cut The String Before You Fling,” focuses on how disposable masks are unsafe to wildlife. The student who created this initiative was worried that mask ear loops are posing a danger to wildlife. Their solution was to encourage students and faculty to cut the ear loop of their disposable mask before disposing of it.

The Byram Hills Sustainability Initiative Club also participates in events outside of school. Jane Zeltner spoke about her experience in the Peer Environmental Education Leadership and at the One World Conference. At the beginning of last year, “The Peer Environmental Education Leadership Club started. Members of this club proposed important topics to teach younger students about environmentalism, researched, created lessons and worksheets, and then filmed and distributed these lessons to elementary students. Some lessons used Kahoot, word searches, and other fun activities. Last year, our main focus was on single-use plastics and teaching students how to decrease their usage.” This year the club hopes to expand the topics they cover. At the One World Conference, “I met with leaders from high school environmental clubs across Westchester to learn more about other club initiatives and successes. This was really helpful in sharing and collaborating to gain new ideas for our own BHSI as well as help other clubs out.”

This club has made tremendous progress because they “have gotten people who don’t typically think about sustainable action thinking about sustainable action,” reflects Ms. Bogren. 

However, Ms. Bogren knows that there is still work to be done. 

One goal of the club is to make a presence on social media, especially on Instagram. Ms. Bogren feels that the best way to start out would be through posting on the district-wide Instagram page. She would like to use this platform to spread the word about the aforementioned initiatives and about upcoming BHSI events for students. Junior Madison Lee presented an interest in helping achieve this goal. This is because “social media has a vast source of information and content that is able to connect people of all ages. It is a source that the BHSI should use to promote sustainability, and I am happy to contribute,” she states. Additionally, using social media is a way to collaborate with other schools and even help them create their own sustainability clubs. The battery and bulb drive is a perfect initiative to start with due to its easy implementation, Ms. Bogren shares. Ideally, Ms. Bogren wants to spread the BHSI Club’s ideas to other schools with the hopes that they will consider adopting them. The club strives for all students and faculty to make small behavioral changes and to understand why their changes will make an impact. Remember, “small changes in our habits actually have big outcomes when looked at over the course of a lifetime” concludes Ms. Bogren.