The case for an environmentally conscious homecoming

October 19, 2018

Homecoming 2018 was the definition of successful. The Beach Bash theme transformed the school into a week long beach party that was made all the more real by the broken air conditioning. The decorations were tasteful and fun, truly showing the hard work that went into them. The get to know the court assembly was refreshing, original, and far more entertaining than those of the past three years. The movie night, beach volleyball, and pancake breakfast were well planned and well attended. The theme days filled the halls with interesting costumes and colors. It was truly one of the best student-run events I have witnessed in my four years at the high school.

If we didn’t live in a world being destroyed by climate change and pollution, that would be the end of this story. I wish it weren’t true, but the Beach Bashes of the future will be consumed by rising sea levels and covered by ever-expanding layers of plastic debris. I wish we could continue to live our carefree lives, but we can’t. Homecoming reflected how we aren’t asking some crucial questions when planning an event. Most importantly, we aren’t asking where our products come from and where they go. With a shifting world we have to shift our definition of success to include what is good for the Earth in addition to what is good for us.

Consider this information: The two shirts we received for homecoming are 35% cotton and 65% polyester. Cotton is grown almost exclusively through heavy applications of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. These methods pollute water and degrade soil. Polyester is a fiber created with petroleum through a water and energy-intensive process. Unlike cotton, it does not biodegrade; rather, it breaks down into harmful microplastics that persist for hundreds of years.

Now consider that the school purchased nearly 3000 of these T-shirts. The environmental damage adds up quickly. According to Principal Evans, the homecoming committee spent $4,692 on the T-shirts and $860 on the decorations. If we had considered the environmental cost in addition to these monetary costs for homecoming planning, a different choice may have been made regarding T-shirts.”

Perhaps only one shirt would have been purchased. Perhaps the theme days could have been altered to not require the T-shirts at all. Instead of purchasing so many garments, what if the money were used to buy food for the dance? As the lack of food is often cited as a negative aspect of homecoming, this might be an opportunity to reduce environmental impact and make homecoming even more enjoyable. If it had been discussed, perhaps we would have decided it was worth going without the surfer necklaces and some of the more wasteful plastic decorations.

We have to balance how much fun is being gained by an item with the environmental damage that item causes. The purpose of this column is simply to push for climate change and environmental damage to be part of the conversation in the future. I understand that it adds an extra layer of complexity onto an already complex event; however, damage to our Earth must be talked about if we are to stop it. Without at least having dialogue about this issue, we have no hope of making progress. I commend the students who worked extremely hard to make my last homecoming something really special. Through environmental dialogue I have high hopes the school body can devise innovative solutions that simultaneously respect the Earth, maintain Ames High’s tradition of fun, and bring us together as a school. 

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