By Alex Gandionco
Junior, Idyllwild Arts Academy

“Going green” — it’s a fairly large statement and even larger commitment to make. For a school to go green, it involves a lot of thinking, planning, encouraging, perseverance, dedication, and curiosity.

Idyllwild Arts Academy is moving toward becoming a greener school and joining the green schools’ movement that has caught fire throughout the United States.

One of the first steps towards this movement was our participation in the Green Schools National Conference earlier this week in Denver, Colo. I was fortunate enough to attend this conference, together with three other students, Michelle McMillan (11th grader), Katherine Kearns (11th grader) and Devin Debowski (10th grader). The four of us were initially interested in making the school more environmentally friendly and also making ourselves more aware of environmental issues; but nothing prepared us for what the Green Schools Conference offered and its effect on us.

After settling into our hotel rooms in Denver on Monday afternoon, we immediately started roaming the exhibition hall filled with products and organizations advocating how to make our world more sustainable. The five of us, including Shannon Jacobs, were eager to find more ideas and products that we could use at our school.

There were a number of well-renowned and fantastic speakers at the general session, including Majora Carter, the founder of Sustainable South Bronx, Philippe Cousteau, CEO of EarthEcho International, and Laura Turner Seydel, chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation. These speakers hit home with us and intensely inspired us to really care about what is happening to our world, and that we are able to make a difference.

An important aspect of the conference was the relationships and connections we made. We were always keen to make conversation with people we would run into, who happened to be leaders of environmental organizations, teachers from other schools, or simply interesting people with innovating ideas.

The exchange of business cards became second nature to us, as we jumped at opportunities to be able to stay in touch with people from all over the country that may come in handy in the future. Relationships between our school and these people can be very valuable and useful, and we did not hesitate to build them with whomever we thought we could.

As artists, we had a special appeal to others. There is an allure behind the idea of an arts boarding school in the mountains. Adults tend to find passionate and driven young artists very intriguing.

We found that there was much curiosity behind how we would integrate eco-friendliness into our art forms and all of us were more than ready to present our ideas.

Our majors cover a broad spectrum and offer many ways of incorporating the ideas gained at the conference into our art. Michelle is a dance major, Katherine majors in film, Devin is in Interdisciplinary Arts with a focus on interior design, and I am a classical vocalist.

There is always a way to make our art more eco-friendly. As artists, thinking outside of the box is instilled into us, and this is very much essential in the process of creating projects to make our environment more sustainable.

Ideas for our school were constantly on our minds. On the 2-1/2-hour ride back home, we discussed ideas. Everyone was already looking forward to putting what we learned into action.

For me, personally, this conference enriched me in more ways than one. I have not only learned and been educated, I have been inspired and motivated to push for this movement like no other. The conference, in short, made me care. There is nothing like the feeling of wanting to go out and save this planet.

And how could you not want to? Idyllwild is beautiful and so rich in its nature and wildlife. As students that live here, we can sometimes take its magnificence for granted. But we all must face the facts — if we do not act now towards becoming more eco-friendly, this may all be lost. I know that none of us could even begin to imagine what Idyllwild would be like without the abundance of the beauty it currently holds. For us, the ideas of “environment” and “nature” are not distant or detached — we are living in it. And that is why we feel so strongly that this green movement is extremely important.

“Idyllwild Arts is going green.” Yes, it is a large statement, but it is nothing short of possible. It is something that us four students, our leader Shannon Jacobs, together with the rest of Idyllwild Arts, are absolutely going to put in everything we have, to make happen.