TJ Goes Green
Celebrating Earth Week
Since 1970, when college student protests gave rise to today’s environmental movement, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22nd. In honor of Earth Day 2016, TJ’s Future Energy Action Team (FEAT) and Environmental Impact Club held several activities during the second week in April that were designed to raise environmental awareness.
The highlight of the clubs’ campaign was the 2nd Annual Carbon Footprint Competition, which encouraged students and faculty to take small and simple steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Throughout the week, participants recorded and transmitted their carbon-saving actions to accumulate points toward a prize. Actions included such energy-saving steps as going vegetarian for the week, using public transportation, washing laundry in cold water, and bringing reusable containers to school. This year’s winner was Rachel Li, TJ ’16, followed by Anika Sindhwani, TJ ’16, Aly Luckett, TJ ’16, and Ellen Chen, TJ ’19.
Other special activities included:
- Monday – On a banner hung in the Gandhi Commons, students and faculty listed various ways to reduce their carbon footprint (below).
- Tuesday, Power-Down Day – Students turned off hallway lights and asked teachers to reduce electricity usage in their classrooms by turning off classroom lights and limiting the use of electronic devices. The school reduced its energy consumption by 10.8%.
- Wednesday – Ms. Liza Fleeson Trossbach, Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Office of Pesticide Services, spoke during 8th period about household and agricultural pesticide use and the effect of pesticides on pollinators.
- Thursday – Students circulated a petition to suspend the use of the dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides that are killing bees.
- Friday – In conjunction with Cultivators of the Earth, another TJ club, students spent 8th period planting cosmos and lilies, both of which attract pollinators (photo above).
TJ’s Biology department, Biotechnology & Life Sciences Research Lab and Oceanography & Geophysical Sciences Research Lab will soon have a wonderful new resource for plant-based projects, TJ’s own greenhouse, which is nearing completion in Courtyard I.
Biotechnology Lab Director Dr. Andrea Cobb has many ideas for greenhouse-based projects, including the development of a research plant — an herb, for example — that could become TJ’s own version of Arabidopsis thaliana, a mustard plant commonly used for plant research. Some students already study the function of genes in plants. Others work on projects involving the genetic engineering of algae. For example, one student recently added a gene to algae that increased hydrogen production, with applications for alternative fuel use. Dr. Cobb stressed the overall relevance of plant biotechnology to solving global problems — like finding crops that can withstand higher temperatures and new pests — and the corresponding demand for researchers in the field: “We can’t all study cancer,” she said. “We also have to eat.”
Courtyard I, where the greenhouse is located, is under construction until the end of the school year and cannot be entered without a construction representative, but in April Oceanography Lab Director Lisa Wu got a sneak peak along with a demonstration of the temperature and light controls (right). Ms. Wu, who with Dr. Cobb requested that a new greenhouse be included in TJ’s renovation plans — the old greenhouse hadn’t been used in years — is already thinking about projects that would take advantage of the exciting new facility, from hydroponics to aquaculture. “Students could even culture fish,” she said.
The greenhouse is currently equipped only with basic features. Among the features on the wish list are humidity controls and an automatic watering system.