A Parking Lot Landfill: We Can Do Better


Zane Roush, Head Writer

What creates an appealing school environment? Is it songs on the intercom on Fridays? Is it assemblies featuring student-athletes and top-tier scholars alike? Is it walking through the parking lot, seeing discarded nicotine products and the litter from dozens of students’ lunch-break fast food runs? If you’re like me, the image of the last doesn’t sound like a place you want to spend your days. Despite this shared opinion, our school parking lot is appalling. It is hard to park my car without hearing the crunch of soda cans being crushed and stepping out into a three-day-old DQ blizzard. There are so many issues with this, I almost don’t know where to begin.

I guess a good place to start is how it looks. The parking lot is the first thing you see arriving at the school; it is the first impression parents and visitors have of our school. If the abhorrent parking jobs aren’t enough to turn their noses, then they see McDonald’s wrappers, cartons from someone’s chicken strips, and empty Juul pods littered across the blacktop. This is immensely unsightly, and doesn’t give the impression of well-maintained grounds or responsible teens.

The fact that it is teenagers committing this offense is even worse. We learn from a very young age that littering is bad. Our kindergarten teachers drove home the idea that given the opportunity to choose between leaving your mess or being a responsible caretaker of your environment and throwing away your trash, you should throw away your trash. The first graders that I occasionally work with seem to understand this better than most of the 11th graders at our school. Why is this? I honestly have no clue. It is so incredibly easy to carry your trash 50 feet out of your way to the dumpsters provided to prevent this exact issue, or even to put it into the trash can creatively placed next to each major entrance.The next time you have trash, try it out. See how easy it is to properly dispose of, and how it makes you feel to know that you are helping to keep your school clean.

What’s next? How about the seagulls. Believe it or not, Helena High has acquired its very own flock of resident seagulls. They aren’t attracted to the pond that forms by the gym each spring, but by the seagull version of an all-you-can-eat buffet that occurs at lunch time each day. Not only do we have to worry about the smaller freshmen (and seniors) being carried away by a horde of seagulls, but the aerial bombardment that takes place until the seagulls have gotten their fill. Typically the only damage is pooped-on windshields, but I know several unlucky souls who got struck on the head or shoulders. I shouldn’t even have to back this one up. It’s NASTY.

The biggest issue with our propensity for leaving our trash is slightly less comedic than seagulls. In fact, it is really serious. When the students of our school leave messes without a care in the world, it shows a complete lack of respect for the people tasked with maintaining the school grounds, and for the school itself. Our janitorial staff and maintenance workers spend lots of time on the upkeep of our school and its grounds. There’s a lot to be done, and a limited day-time staff. They can’t spend every second in the parking lot picking up plastic bag tumbleweeds. Proponents of littering (I wasn’t sure that existed until I had to park in yellow lot) will say that the maintenance folks get paid to clean, and therefore it’s ok, but it is more than just disrespect to them. It is disrespectful towards the school. This is a place of learning, of people taking time to help others grow. When you leave your rubbish, it’s effectively a middle finger to the school. It says that you don’t care enough to do a small task to better the environment for yourself or the 1600 other people that occupy the school.

With the maintenance crew only being able to do so much, some student clubs, like Mrs. Van Alstyne’s Green Group, have taken it upon themselves to right this issue. The improvement to the feel of the parking lot is incredible after they have gone through, but the victory is short-lived; by the next day their impact is almost unrecognizable. To keep Helena High clean, we must all work together. You don’t have to love school. You don’t have to love nature. But the least you can do is pick up 10 pieces of trash on your way back to class after lunch. It’s an easy task, and an amazing way to make an impact.

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