Earlier this year, Duluth East High School noticed the problem of littering along the section of the Lakewalk that runs next to the railroad tracks between Superior Street, London Road, and 40 Street East. The students and faculty have taken measures to resolve the problem including plans to ticket people for any incidents of littering in the future. They will also be raising awareness for becoming environmentally conscious April 23-27.
“There had been some issues with littering down by the Lakewalk at the beginning of the year because people were throwing their garbage in yards,” Berit Goodge said, a student and member of the forum. “Anyone should be able to enjoy that Lakewalk without having to look at people’s trash.”
The school’s Student Forum is a group of about 80 students who want to become more involved in the school’s activities. This group of students was originally the group that designated themselves to pick up this area.
“In December, before we had any snow, it was bad,” Cheryl Lien said, the Student Forum adviser. “We started out the year picking up, led by a couple students on the forum, but once it got cold, we quit and the garbage got really bad."
According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, 55 percent of all littering is done intentionally by people who drop or discard products. Because of this, Minnesota alone spends $5 million a year collecting litter, not counting what the cities and counties spend individually. With volunteers like the students and faculty at Duluth East High School, the state can save money on pick up costs.
Although Duluth East High School had the issues with littering earlier in the year, they are really trying to make everyone aware of the importance of going green, and being aware of the environmental issues around them.
“We are putting large garbage cans in the parking lots,” Lien said. “And next year we will be issuing tickets, similar to parking tickets except to people that litter.”
According to The City of Duluth, a littering violation is a $50 fine because it is a level one violation. Duluth East High School plans on applying the same fine and ticketing like the city does for littering.
“We want to send the message that we are serious about this and that everyone needs to step up and take responsibility,” Lien said.
The garbage that is carelessly dropped on the ground instead of put in garbage cans or recycling bins have consequences besides just the fines that can be received. They have environmental consequences as well.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation provides a table on its website that gives the decomposition time for some of those common littered items such as glass bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bags, and even a cigarette butt. This table shows time from a short range like an orange or banana peel that takes about 2-5 weeks to decompose, all the way to a single glass bottle that takes one million years to decompose.
Because of these environmental issues, the student forum has decided to do something to address the issue of littering in the area around the new high school.
The plan is “Green Week.”
“It was just something that I thought was really important, being environmentally conscious,” Goodge said. “There was all this hype about our new school being a green building and I thought it would be nice to implement going green to the students.”
The Student Forum has teamed up with the Green Club at Duluth East to make this Green Week happen. It started as a fundraiser to buy birch trees for the school, and it eventually got meshed into one idea of going green and being environmentally conscious.
“It is a week to make everyone aware of their consumption, and to address the environmental issue,” Lien said.
Green Week will kick off on April 23 and will go until April 27. Students will be given punch cards that will be stamped for different activities that they participate in. Some examples of ways the students can earn punches include: bringing lunch in a reusable container, riding a bike or walking to school, carpooling to school, and recycling old T-shirts for the T-shirt drive. At the end of the week, there will be a school dance where students with enough punches will be able to attend the dance for free as an incentive to earn punches throughout the week.
Another activity that will be happening for the students is a collection of old Duluth East apparel that students no longer wear, and recycle them in a unique way.
“We took the idea of reusing things and having an old T-shirt drive so that all of the T-shirts we get are going to be put in a spirit closet,” Goodge said. “It’s just a place where students can go if they need some sort of school apparel, and don’t have to buy anything new. We all belong to the same community no matter what your financial background is.”
Even though Green Week is just beginning, neighbors of the high school already notice the difference in cleanliness along the Lakewalk.
Pam Elifritz, a Lakeside resident who uses the Lakewalk on a regular basis to walk her dog has little to complain about as far as litter is concerned.
“I don’t see that much garbage, and I haven’t particularly noticed it get bad recently,” Elifritz said. “I think its pretty neat what the school does and what they continue to do. They have done a fantastic job and people love it down here.”