Youth Perspectives on Lowering Our Carbon Footprint

ACES Youth Corp Helena Strauch shares the succesfulness of Triton Regional High School's Sustainability Project while several students share their positive experiences.

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The Environmental Science classes at Triton Regional High School recently undertook an initiative toward implementing more sustainable lifestyles over a two-week period. To “walk the talk,” Thomas Horsley, the teacher and supervisor of this project, also participated in this yearly project to demonstrate a difference.

If everyone on this planet were to share the same lifestyle as an average American, we would need five Earth’s worth of resources to support the population of the world (reference from Earth Overshoot Day). It is important for the health of our planet to make changes to reduce our negative impacts. Learning about a carbon footprint, students chose three changes they could make that would reduce their impact on the environment.

Senior Joe Abt decided his three actions would be: 1) turn off and unplug unused devices and lights, 2) use a reusable water bottle, and 3) use unpackaged shower essentials versus ones that come in plastic bottles.

“It has been going really well so far. Turning off the lights is going to be evident in my parents’ electrical bill,” Abt said. “It’s been pretty easy, honestly, changing habits. I would recommend this to other people, and other schools as a final project as well.”

One of the most common statements from students participating in this project was how easy it is to incorporate more sustainable ways of living into their lifestyles.

Isabella Savino, another senior, was participating in the Sustainability Project while on vacation in Arizona.

“During that time, it was really easy to think about more sustainable practices. We were all carpooling, and eating out which made it easier to avoid red meat,” Savino said.

She noted that, while this was an easy task for her, it caused her to be more thoughtful and insightful at the same time. Her plan is to incorporate these and more good practices so she can continue staying strong when back in Massachusetts.

Sage Woodward is a second-timer doing this project and also a senior. The first time around, she had made the decision to go vegan. Although she was unsuccessful in staying vegan for the full duration of the project, she gained from the experience and then made a decision to become serious and go vegetarian.

“This project can really show people that sustainable behaviors aren’t as hard as you may think they are. When I first went vegetarian, I thought it was going to be impossible,” Woodward said. “But it has actually been really easy and I know not eating meat is one of the best things you can do for the environment.”

Woodward believes that this project is a great opportunity to reflect and be thoughtful so you can open your mind to lifestyles like being a healthy vegetarian. This year, she chose to cut back on individually packaged goods, eating less dairy, and being better about using her reusable water bottle.

Thomas Horsley believes that this sustainability project is the most important assignment that he presents every year.

Since starting the legacy of the project, he has become vegetarian, rides his bike to school, and decreased his plastic use by using things such as shampoo bars.

“I want to demonstrate that every person, myself included, can make small, manageable changes in their lives to make a difference,” Horsley said.

He claimed that he, as well as many students, plans to extend sustainable practices beyond the duration of the project. Adjusting to the changes is the hard part, but the impact that will occur in the long run is surprisingly remarkable.

"Appreciate your positive contribution to a healthier environment"

Take a step and unplug those electronics not in use, take a shorter shower, invest in a reusable water bottle if you haven’t already, eat local, and use more plastic-free waste items. You will see the difference, and appreciate your positive contribution to a healthier environment.

This column was coordinated by ACES youth corps member, Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, please send an email to To learn more about ACES and its Youth Leadership Initiative, visit website

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Helena Strauch

Helena Strauch is a Triton High School graduate headed to the University of Vermont to study Environmental Studies. As a member of the ACES team, she acknowledges that taking advantage of the stewardship learning opportunities will be valuable for her academic education, career, and the rest of her life. She is passionate about the health of the environment and bringing awareness to the importance of sustainability. Outside of school and working with ACES, Helena likes to spend time with her friends and work at her part time job at Off the Vine.

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