NARRAGANSETT – Local students are organizing a community-driven, tree planting initiative in order to offset paper usage at Narragansett High School (NHS). The event, taking place on May 1, is a collaboration between students and the nonprofit organization Tree-Plenish.
“I think that it is important that our school’s paper consumption is replenished so that our school can be more environmentally conscious and efficient,” said Julia Highcove, an NHS Senior and member of the school’s eco club. “Since trees are such a crucial part of our ecosystem, it is important that we replace those that are cut down for man-made products like paper. By doing so we are working to keep the earth both beautiful and healthy.”
While strides have been made at the local level to put a laptop in the hands of every high school student for educational purposes, high schools generally still tend to use lots of paper, from notes to homework to essays and worksheets. NHS’ annual paper usage is estimated to equate to about 100 trees. In order to offset this consumption, Highcove, the NHS Eco Club and Tree-Plenish hope to engage members of the public to plant trees, provided and planted by the club and Tree-Plenish, in their yards.
Becoming involved with the May 1 event is simple — participants can go to NHS’ Tree-Plenish website and make a donation toward the initiative, order a tree or sign up to volunteer.
“If somebody wanted to, they could get involved and stay completely hands-free by marking on their order form that they would like a volunteer to plant their tree for them,” said Highcove. “For those who would like to plant their own tree, when arriving at the designated tree pick-up location, they will also receive an infographic providing any planting directions that they will need.”
The eco club at NHS became involved with Tree-Plenish while searching for its next initiative to better the community and planet, according to Highcove club advisor and NHS science teacher Kathleen Couchon. According to its website, Tree-Plenish hopes to engage youth in communities to host annual events that help offset paper usage at local schools. Through student leaders, annual events are planned, coordinated, marketed and carried out to achieve this goal.
“Mrs. Couchon and I worked with both Tree-Plenish and our club to set our goals, set up our event and finally market it,” said Highcove. “The nonprofit was actually founded by a group of students who planned a similar event as a graduation requirement. As of right now, only our school’s Eco Club is involved, but as we approach our planting date we anticipate other students joining us to volunteer at the event.”
While a noble and community-driven project, the initiative will not be used to fulfill students’ graduation requirements at NHS, and is entirely volunteer-based.
In the time of the pandemic, Tree-Plenish maintains that its top priority while acting on its mission is health and safety of organizers, volunteers, participants and the community. The organization has adopted and will follow strict safety guidelines around COVID-19, according to its website.
The organization was founded in 2018 by two students from Massachusetts who set out to plant 230 trees in their community to offset the annual paper usage of their school. Highcove said the Narragansett School System has been helpful and supportive in the eco club’s efforts to replicate that initiative locally.
“The school system has been incredibly supportive by granting us access to fundraise for this event, plan it and potentially plant some trees on school grounds,” she said.
On the day of the event, teams of volunteers will be sent to the houses of those who ordered trees to plant them in recipients’ yards. Additionally, participants who wished to pick up their tree saplings and plant in their yards themselves will be emailed the location for pickup.
To learn more and get involved, please visit www.tree-plenish.org/narragansett.