My freshman year, a few upperclassmen tried to start a recycling club and they put the work in. They talked to the school administration, they got a whole load of interested students, they held multiple meetings, and they bought the recycling bins. They taught people how to recycle and what to recycle. They set up schedules and made posters. They actually ended up doing most of the recycling too – going through the bins and picking out the trash, and then driving 25 minutes to the nearest recycling center to dump what was left.
Not long after the program really started picking up pace, the recycling bins just disappeared. Maybe moved to a different part of town? Maybe just removed completely? The case of the disappearing recycling bins in my town is an ever-emerging problem that me and my dad have tried to solve, but maybe it is a mystery that is meant to stay unsolved.
All the members of the Alabama Environmental Youth Council have some type of story like mine. May Jung, the founder, was purely just browsing for a state-youth organization to join. She found none, so she started it. And now, two years in, we are here for all the passionate youth who just want to get involved. We have slowly started to build up what we do.
The first year we tried to find our footing and found that we took on too much handle. This year, we are focusing on education by hosting different environmental experts and activists through webinars. We are also trying to host actual hands-on volunteer activities, by partnering with schools to create clean-up events in their areas. Next year, we want to expand even more, and we are open to ideas! And people! People who are interesting in anything from environmental legislation to nature conservation to sustainable waste methods!
It is hard to find opportunities to get involved, but the AEYC is a great way to do exactly that and foster human connection over zoom calls in a way that your online classes wish they could imitate.
We only meet over zoom twice a week, but we have a good time. We were on the Zoom train long before it was popular. And although all of the members have never met in person, we know each other enough to make fun of each other every once in a while. If you are a high-school aged kid with a passion for the environment, we know we would love you and not to sound too cocky, but you would love us.
The applications for the 2021-2022 year of the Alabama Environmental Youth Council can be found at our website, aeycouncil.org. The tentative deadline to turn in the application is May 7th, but that date could be easily pushed back. You can follow our Instagram, @aeycouncil, for updates.
Sanjana Mupparaju is a high school junior at the Alabama School of Math and Science. Her passions lie in journalism and the climate crisis. Sanjana writes for Foreign Policy Youth Collaborative, a website run 100% by high school students.