Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine


A photo essay on the Sustainability Decathlon  
by Rochelle Stowe  

In spring 2007, the SCU Solar Decathlon team set out to build an energy-efficient, solar-powered house they christened the Ripple Home. As part of the ripple effect this project was meant to have, the team also launched a special outreach project called the Sustainability Decathlon involving local high schools in a competition to make their campuses more “green.” Some high school students installed bike racks, planted trees on their school campuses, and purchased waterless urinals.

Students from Santa Clara High School also hosted a Green Carnival for neighboring Washington Elementary School. I spent an afternoon with the children at Washington Elementary, trying to capture the wide-eyed excitement and energy of the day in pictures. One game asked children to toss empty recyclable plastic water bottles through a wooden board. When one of the boys missed, there was a flicker of disappointment in his eyes—and awkward hesitation, though only for a moment, before he dashed to the back of the line for another try.

For another game, the children raced across a field looking for trash. They screamed, they giggled, they sprinted to the back fence and combed their way back. Each piece of trash they collected they could exchange for ticket, then redeem the tickets for prizes. But before they got the ticket, they had to say whether or not the trash they’d picked up was recyclable.

We learn how the world works by exploration and experience. When we talk about sustainability—meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future—these are the children whose future is at stake. The Solar Decathlon team members learned about community involvement through the Sustainability Decathlon. And hopefully, by instilling values of environmental stewardship in the children, we can better enable them to create good in the world which they inherit.

—Rochelle Stowe is a sophomore communication and environmental studies major at SCU.  She hails from Tacoma.