Menlo’s Climate Coalition Reflects on First Semester Projects


Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

Menlo’s student-let Climate Coalition has worked on four major projects this semester. Creative Commons photo: Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash.

Danielle McNair, Staff Writer

Menlo’s Climate Coalition, led by senior Alix Borton, developed a series of projects over the first semester aimed at creating a more sustainable environment. These projects included The California Wildfires, Climate Policy, The Waste of COVID-19 and Saving Caltrain. 

7,921 fires across California have burned a total of 1,409,987 acres, which has devastated surrounding communities and harmed the environment, as of Dec. 6, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The Climate Coalition’s California Wildfires project was led by seniors Ella Forese and Gabby Kogler. One goal of the project was to educate students on how human actions contribute to wildfires. The Climate Coalition also wanted to help with wildfire rescue efforts through fundraising. “It was important for us to learn about [not only] the fires but also how to prevent them,” Borton said. 

The project took place in four phases, which included introducing the topic, educating Coalition members, creating a presentation to share with the Menlo community and fundraising. After researching the consequences of the fires, Forese and Kogler decided to plan a nature hike that will take place in late December to witness changes that have occurred as a result of these wildfires. 

The next project, led by junior Jack Rosenberg and senior Ishi Sood, was aimed at climate policy. The goal for their project was to spread awareness about climate policy and how state and national legislation can impact climate policy in the United States. The duo dove deep into local, state and national legislation to see how recent laws have impacted climate change and its effects on the world. Using their research and findings, Rosenberg and Sood plan to create a climate resolution, which they intend to present to the Menlo administration.They hope to open doors to more involvement from the administration when it comes to Climate Coalition initiatives in the future. 

Next, junior Ella Hartmanis and senior Mallika Tatavarti co-led a project focused on COVID-19 waste. The research for their project began by researching links between COVID-19 and plastic use. For example, adding additional packaging to products to prevent the spread of germs during this pandemic. They found that there has been a huge spike in plastic use and waste during the pandemic due to precautionary measures.

The goal for the Waste of COVID-19 project is to find ways to lower plastic use even during the pandemic and to spread awareness about ways to remain sustainable during this time. This research will culminate in assembling an art project using waste from the community. Hartmanis and Tatavarti will remotely collaborate on an art mobile displaying butterflies and flowers made from plastic they used during this time, which will hang in the Student Center.

The last goal of Menlo’s Climate Coalition this past semester was to work collectively on one major project: Saving Caltrain. “Many members of the Menlo community rely on Caltrain to commute to and from school and in the area. I felt it was important to do our part,” Borton said. In addition, she mentioned that Caltrain is a reliable source of public transportation, which positively impacts the area’s sustainability efforts. In the summer of 2020, San Mateo County did not approve Caltrain for funding, and due to the pandemic, fewer local citizens were riding Caltrain, which runs solely on rider fairs and parking fees. 

The goal for this project was to help keep Caltrain running by encouraging voters to support Measure RR on the November ballot. Measure RR imposes an extra ⅛-cent sales tax increase, which is tax revenue that helps preserve Caltrain. The Climate Coalition organized weekly Zoom meetings to phone bank for the measure. 

Measure RR passed; however, Measure RR is a regressive tax, meaning it disproportionately impacts low-income households. After realizing this effect of Measure RR, the Climate Coalition found the Measure RR campaign manager and was pleased to learn that Caltrain is allocating funding toward those communities to make sure they are supported. In the future, Menlo’s Climate Coalition will check in with Caltrain to ensure these donations are consistently being made toward low income families, Borton said.