Awareness and Collaboration: Ignatian Carbon Challenge at Walsh Jesuit High School

BY KELLY SWAN January 24, 2017

Roman Gioglio, a senior at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, had just wrapped up his last year of soccer as a student in the fall of 2016, and after years of athletics was seeking a new direction.

After joining Walsh Jesuit’s delegation at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C., in November, Gioglio stumbled upon another Ignatian Solidarity Network program—the Ignatian Carbon Challenge. The school was engaged in the program on an individual classroom level, promoting personal practices rooted in sustainability, but Gioglio, with classmate Gavin McIntyre, pushed the school toward addressing environmental issues on an institutional level.

The ball has continued to roll, with Gioglio and McIntyre’s momentum, ever since. He has established the WJ Green Team, a group of 40 students who meet regularly to brainstorm and implement new ideas. To initiate whole-school engagement, the group produced an Ignatian Carbon Challenge introduction video.

The team’s first completed initiative, highlighted in their intro video, was to establish water bottle filling stations at drinking fountains, working to eliminate use of disposable plastic water bottles on the campus. The Green Team initiated a school-wide media blitz to promote this effort, featuring promotion in the school newspaper, a poster campaign, social media posts, buttons, emails, and an awareness-building video.

The team has diligently mapped their next steps. They are currently in discussion with the school’s food services department to eliminate the use of styrofoam plates in favor of more biodegradable paper plates. A petition has been crafted, garnering both student and faculty support.

After a student-initiated cost and environmental analysis, the team is engaged in discussion with the school’s business office, with plans to transition to hand driers on the campus, replacing paper towel use. A planning meeting has been scheduled with school administrators to choose a drier model and discuss installation.

Future collaborative initiatives include dynamic public displays of electric and gas usage; student-initiated incorporation of Laudato Si’ into theology and science courses; a trash audit followed by recycling, composting, and waste reduction awareness campaigns; and a school-wide “Earth Week” program, facilitated by both students and administration.

Gioglio’s enthusiasm and ability to rally his fellow students, as well as faculty, staff, and administrators at the school is evident, as is his commitment to and understanding of the ties between sustainability initiatives and Jesuit values. “I found the Ignatian Carbon Challenge to be a perfect way to live out one [characteristic of] the Jesuit Grad at Grad: committed to justice,” shares Gioglio. “Students hear a lot about this component, and I was ecstatic when I was able to directly do this through the Ignatian Carbon Challenge.”

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