WESS’s Green Team Pioneers Remote Advocacy Opportunities for Students


Members of the Green Team have been utilizing online video communication programs like Zoom and Google Meets for their weekly meetings.

Elizabeth Alton

The past few years have brought an influx of environmental activists. From melting sea ice and an increase in extreme weather patterns sweeping the world, it’s no surprise that Generation Z is ready to fight for the planet we’re getting ready to inherit. In 2019, NYC school students, including those at WESS, were given an excused absence to attend the climate strike along with an estimated six million people around the world. Despite the fact that we’re social distancing, WESS students can still participate in environmental advocacy through the Green Team, a club taking steps  to help the planet and plan events that will invite other WESS students to do the same.

The Green Team, one of WESS’s oldest clubs, was founded six years ago during the learning expedition “Down the Drain” when the current 11th graders were in sixth grade. During the expedition, students learned about the negative impacts of Combined Sewage Overflows in the Hudson River. 

As a result of the expedition, WESS partnered with the BOP (Billion Oyster Project), a non-profit organization whose goal is to restore one billion oysters (which purify water) to New York Harbor by 2035 while educating NYC students. Along with the support of the BOP and local Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Green Team members introduced a bill to the New York Assembly to monetarily incentivise restaurants’s donation of oyster shells, which can then be planted in New York Harbor help restore the ecosystem to what it once was.

Now, the team of middle and high schoolers are working to bring remote advocacy projects to WESS. They’re working to get others to recognize that even though it can feel like the world has put on pause during COVID, the environment continues to feel the brunt of human activities and climate change.

Emily Hollyday, the club’s founding advisor, believes that the existence of the club is critical.

“I think it’s important to have a Green Team at WESS because it’s a way for students to interact with their community in a very positive way,” Holliday said.

One of the club’s current endeavors is planning a virtual letter writing campaign.

Participating students will be advocating for Assembly Bill A11070, an environmental bill in the New York legislature and will receive two hours of community service for their work. The bill would mandate that New York State updates its environmental laws and regulations every five years. The Bill’s sponsor, Albany Assemblymember Patrica Fahy, will be in attendance to tell students about the bill and answer questions.

Junior Ava Simon, a member of the Green Team, views the campaign as an opportunity to try out a new form of advocacy.

“It’s a great opportunity to do something that maybe you haven’t got to do before,” Simon said. “Since right now there aren’t really a lot of community service opportunities and ways to get involved in our community because of COVID, this is a great opportunity to get involved.” 

Another faction of the club is working on setting up a website that will link WESS students to different virtual environmental community service opportunities around the city.

“Right now we’re trying to get community service opportunities for high schoolers and just to spread awareness about it,”  said 7th grade Green Team member Sophia Houck. “I think it’s important because climate change needs to be stopped and even if it’s a small step, it’s still a step.”

The club has provided participating students, like Sophomore Joey Carrol, with an outlet to make their voices heard and stand up for the environment.

“It’s very demoralizing to realize that you’re not doing much when there’s something that is actively hurting you,” Carrol said. “I guess it’s really in touch with what Greta Thumberg speaks about, but especially with the idea of polar bears which is pretty terrible to think about. It’s very sad to think I’m doing nothing, so in the hopes to do something I can find some way to help.” 

“It’s important that students understand the voice that they have in New York, specifically in terms of the environment,”  junior Annabelle Alton added. “I think this would be a great step for some kids to get into our virtual campaign and help out.”

If you’re interested in joining the WESS green team you can send an email to [email protected] and to sign up for the letter writing campaign you can fill out this google form.