Laredo, TX – Over 350 students from 12 different high schools in Laredo, Texas gathered at the 6th Annual Laredo Environmental Summit. The summit focused on bringing the community together to identify and find sustainable solutions to Laredo’s environmental challenges. This year the theme was focused on litter and reducing the amount of waste in Laredo. There were a variety of organizations in attendance from local environmental groups, Texas State Parks, and large companies. The presentations ranged from ground water contamination, weather patterns, a state wide environmental advocacy group, and a state senator.
Pat and TJ Beezley, Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers attended the summit as keynote speakers. The keynote address was focused on how to implement Leave No Trace in their community and school. Leave No Trace for frontcountry and urban areas helps address the impacts found in those areas. A prevalent issue is the proper disposal of trash. There must be sufficient infrastructure, trash and recycling cans, to support outdoor areas. However, having trash and recycling cans in place only accounts for %15 of littering behavior. Individual behavior including attitudes, awareness, social norms, and personal responsibility accounts for %85 of littering behavior. Changing behaviors and attitudes towards litter is imperative for reducing littering. The students were encouraged to activate social norms, such as “It’s not cool to litter the school grounds”, target attitudes about litter and trash, and have peer-to-peer outreach. Overall, the students want to become stewards of their school. Changing behavior and attitudes in the school will lead and transfer into the outdoor setting.
Part of the summit included breakout sessions for the students. The students were divided into their schools and created plans and goals on how to reduce the amount of waste at their schools. The students took charge and created creative plans to implement. Some of their ideas included:
- Creating a campaign to enhance current recycling programs by creating signs, running competitions between grades, and making recycling fun with basketball hoops over the cans.
- Reducing the amount of paper in classrooms by monitoring the weight of paper used each month, enforce double-sided printing, and send a survey to teachers about their paper use.
- Collecting recyclables at their school and exchanging them for money. Then, taking the funds raised to adopt a popular and well-used park behind their school.
- Doing cleanups and turning litter into art to fundraise for improvements for their school.
- Making school ground more green by planting trees and starting a vegetable garden.
- Having weekly cleanups of their school grounds and have grades compete against each other to see who can pick up the most litter.
The high school students were engaged, passionate, and excited about taking their projects back to their schools to implement them. Educating youth and turning their passion and energy into positive change is crucial for the future of our environment. The Laredo Environmental Summit helped make this a reality.
Thanks for reading and remember to be like the Center’s mascot Bigfoot and Leave No Trace.
Pat and TJ - Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer West Central Team
Leave No Trace’s Patrick and Theresa Beezley are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.