As New England winters become increasingly warmer, cars continue to pollute the air with harmful gases, and plastic litters the sidewalks, the agenda and urgency of the Climate Action club notably increases.
The Climate Action club at the high school, run by President Vaani Kapoor ’23, and Co-Vice Presidents Kaitlin Braun ’22 and Catherine Smith ’22, has brought together a group of passionate students in an effort to save the future of Wellesley by pushing to reduce the high school and town’s carbon footprint.
“By the time Catherine, Vaani, and I graduate, we would love to have a collective group of students who are dedicated to carrying out the mission of the club and will continue to move forward with our sustainability efforts,” said Braun.
One of the most recent projects they have been working on, in collaboration with the high school and the Wellesley Municipal light plant, is implementing solar canopies in the school parking lot. Solar canopies create energy and provide shade. In early 2020, the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission declared a climate emergency in the town of Wellesley, and later Town Meeting Members passed Article Twelve, a resolution to address the impact of climate change in Wellesley. Solar panels serve as a way to provide renewable energy and thus will help Wellesley reach its goal of minimizing its carbon footprint.
This ambitious goal of adding solar canopy to the high school parking lot comes with challenges, including lack of funding.
“Finding the money for the solar canopies, the installation, and the electrical reworking presents itself as a speed bump in our end goal. However, you cannot put a price on any practice that moves towards a sustainable future,” said Kapoor.
The lack of urgency demonstrated by various adults in the community also presents a challenge to moving forward with the plan. To implement change on the demanding environmental issues, the club needs a large, consistent community effort towards action.
“We acknowledge that several town departments are working towards the inclusion of sustainable practice, but are all working towards their individual agendas. In order for any change to take place within the town, it is necessary that we work together as a team, seeing as we all share the same goal, but have different paths in getting there,” said Braun.
President of Sustainable Wellesley, founding member of Wellesley Green Schools, and local climate activist Ms. Phyllis Theermann worked with numerous students at the high school and local colleges on climate related issues in the community. Students at the high school worked on putting solar panels in the parking lot in the past, but this year’s Climate Action Club of more than forty students has accomplished more than ever seen before.
“Their leadership has brought our Town leaders to the table to have an honest discussion about solar energy in our community which was surely needed. I applaud all of their research, time, commitment, and understanding of what can be a difficult topic,” said Theermann.
Outside of the high school, Massachusetts initiated new efforts to create the foundation for bold and robust statewide climate policy through legislation. The Roadmap Bill, recently passed in Massachusetts, will strengthen Massachusetts’ emissions reduction targets to a goal of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“Targets like these will push communities like ours to reduce emissions in our energy, transportation and building sectors,” said Theermann.
In addition to the solar canopy project, the Climate Action club hopes to sort recycling in each classroom of the high school, implement a composting system in the school cafeteria, make school lunches plastic-free, and create a school butterfly garden over the next year and a half.
“The addition of solar canopies to the Wellesley High school parking lot would be a huge step in the right direction, but we cannot stop there. If anything, this transition to solar energy would be the start of a much longer process that helps the town reduce its carbon footprint,” said Smith.
High school students, faculty, parents, and alumni are welcome to reach out to town leaders (Select Board, School Committee, Municipal Light Plant) to support the solar canopy initiative and/or the creation of local renewable power in Wellesley.