From student to family to community

Students in Huntington Beach High School's new environmental sustainability class aren't just learning how to live green, but are making it a reality at their school.

The Environmental Awareness and Responsibility class, which started in the fall out of an on-campus club, is opening students' eyes about the environment while letting them take action through a campuswide recycling program and digging into the dirt to build an organic garden.

"This is my favorite class," said 17-year-old Tony Tennant. "We're actually doing something instead of sitting around all day."

The elective class is aiming to teach students how to live greener lives by making them more environmentally conscious, said teacher Greg Goran, who also teaches social science classes.

Students are learning about household toxins, organic food, water catchments and how to green their homes through lectures, field trips, guest speakers, movies and current events, Goran said.

Goran also wants his students to have the tools to get into a green field after they graduate.

"I think there's a lot of interest in environmentalism in the kids," Goran said. "They just haven't had an outlet to be taught it."

A career in green technology is exactly what 17-year-old Kendall Moffett-Sklaroff is aiming for. The president of the Sustainability Club, Kendall said she wants to be a chemist to help make chemicals that are better for the environment but work just as well.

The junior, who was helping pull weeds where the class planned to put vine plants Friday afternoon, said she has always been in the environmental scene, but didn't really know how to take action.

Her family was always environmentally conscious, but now nearly all of her family's garbage comes to the school to be recycled. An avid shopper, Kendall has also started frequenting thrift shops instead of buying new.

Likewise, senior Josh Benham, 17, said he has changed his, and his family's, way — his home was probably the worst offender, he said.

With an electrician father, the house was always lit up. They also had a ton of chemicals and paint cans left open, he said.

Now, almost every bulb is fluorescent, and he and his father turn off lights, saving the family $70 on their last electric bill.

He changed the shower heads and faucets to save water. His mother also agreed to use the more environmentally friendly dishwashing soap he bought for her, Josh said.

Some of the students are changing their lifestyles and sharing it with their parents. Spreading the awareness is exactly what Goran has in mind.

Change one student, then one family, then the school and eventually a whole community, he said.

Goran has already received calls from other educators asking about their garden, and the class is planning a campaign with the Surfrider Foundation to get the school and then all of Huntington Beach off plastic bottles and bags.

Swearing off water bottles has been one change senior Steven Bauer has done, he said. After watching the documentary "Tapped," the 17-year-old switched to reusable bottles, and his family installed a water filtration system, he said.

The class is starting a domino effect, Josh said. Other schools will see how far Huntington has come and have to rise to their level, he said.

"I think [the class] is starting something," he said. "Other schools will want to do it too."

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