Beloved Pace Tradition Runs Contrary to IGCL Theme of Waste

A portion of the Class of 2020’s “Dr. Seuss” decorations lined the halls of the upper school. Photo: Lee Wilson

With the Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) theme of waste this year, the Pace Upper School has made a point of calling attention to new recycling methods and ways of avoiding unnecessary waste on Pace campus. From bringing in speakers like CEO and founder of TerraCycle Tom Szaky to “Thoughtful Thursdays” hosted by the ICGL Council, the ICGL works hard to make sure that Pace students are conscious about their impact on the environment and how much waste they contribute.

Even when students don’t realize it, the ICGL program is hard at work to reduce the negative impact that Pace has on the environment; most recently, students learned that for the past few months, Pace has been working with CompostNow to divert a large percentage of the cafeteria food waste from landfills to create compost and help the environment.

However, with many of Pace’s long standing traditions, it seems difficult to work the theme of waste in and remind students of how they are leaving an impact, positive or negative. One of the biggest and most relevant examples of this is Spirit Week. Spirit Week has become one of the largest and most well-attended events held by the Upper School, not to mention that it is seen as one of the most fun weeks of the school year by the student body. Although all participating students have gotten involved in several aspects of the week-long celebration in the past, it is not often that the Pace community stops to think about the environmental aspect of Spirit Week. 

With the exception of the senior class, each grade decorates their assigned location the Sunday before students return to school after winter break, and from this point to when the decorations are officially taken down on the Thursday afternoon of that week, many of the posters, banners, tablecloths and streamers that cover the school are torn down or destroyed. While it is probable that some of these do make it into proper recycling bins or TerraCycle boxes around the school, many don’t, which only contributes to the waste that Pace students put out. Then, the remaining decorations are put into Pace’s dumpster and the seniors redecorate the school for a single day, after which their decorations are also thrown away.

Besides the decorations, students contribute to their costumes. While some grades are able to find more versatile items, the majority of Spirit Week costumes would not be worn by Pace students in day-to-day life, and they often end up sitting in the closets and dressers of their owners. Often, these items are also decorative, metallic or sparkly, which makes them more difficult to donate or upcycle, which would make them more useful in the long run. 

The ICGL and Pace administration works extremely hard to make sure that students are conscious and careful about their effect on the planet and its environment; however, there is still more to be done. Pace traditions are such an important part of the school’s culture and the bonding experience within and between classes, but it is important to keep in mind the annual ICGL theme, especially when it is as important as waste. 

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