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October 25, 2021

PVUSD bans balloons, creates ‘Green Team’ to address environmental concerns

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a trio of resolutions geared to guide PVUSD’s environmental policies, including banning the use of balloons districtwide and creating a “Green Team” that will further shape practices.

Wednesday’s discussion came after two student-led green teams from Calabasas and Starlight elementary schools addressed the board in April, expressing concern about balloons and how they affect the environment.

According to the Environmental Nature Center, latex balloons take as long as four years to decompose and, when they are released, wind up by the thousands on beaches and other areas. Worse, scientists have found them in the stomachs of stranded whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles that mistake the balloons for food. Animals have also gotten tangled in the string that comes attached to downed helium balloons.

Calabasas teacher Laura Arnow, one of two teachers who leads the green team there, gave credit to the student team members. 

“They learned about micro-plastic, they learned about entanglement, and they didn’t like it,” she said. “I think all the congratulations should go to the kids, and it shows that the board is really listening to what they have to say.”

PVUSD Board Vice President Jennifer Schacher said the other resolutions stemmed from that meeting, and are meant to address a plethora of other environmental concerns.

“If I look at issues all over the world, it brings to our attention that we need to do more,” she said. “There is a lot more we can do as a district.”

District officials say the resolutions mesh with PVUSD’s responsibility to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, use natural resources wisely and support the region’s biodiversity, among other things.

The Green Team will be made up of community members, parents, students, teachers, board members and classified staff, among others. The group will solicit ideas from the community, and use those ideas to guide their activity, Schacher said.

Such policies are already having an impact. The district has replaced plastic straws with paper ones, and has installed water bottle filling stations at all its schools. Students will use these to fill reusable, stainless steel bottles, all as a way to reduce plastic waste.

Schacher says she hopes the district’s new policy will inspire students to keep their schools clean, and, by extension, other areas of their lives.

“You want to keep their areas beautiful,” she said. “And that encourages them to look at their own neighborhoods and ask, ‘what can I do?’” 

Too often, Schacher said, people are quick to dismiss the concerns of young people.

“But these kids brought this to the board and inspired change,” Schacher said. “I hope it inspires others to listen to kids.”

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