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HHS’s carbon footprint

Mar 22, 2019

With turf now covering the majority of HHS outdoor athletic facilities, eyebrows have been raised about how these fields will impact our environment and the community’s carbon footprint.

“Turf pellets are alternative ‘fills’ created by old tires and placed into our fields for a greater sports efficiency,” said Mike Harris, Science. “These pellets also happen to contain heavy metals and leads that can be harmful to our water supply.”

HHS and Minnetonka High School are two Metro area schools that have the largest carbon footprints in the state, due to having some of the newest and largest athletic facilities that use turf and artificial resources that clash with our community’s natural resources.

Athletic facilities using turf isn’t a new concept, but these small, rubber pellets are controversial because they can make their way into the body and cause dysfunction among cells and human tissue, due to the contamination of carcinogens.

“On hot days like the ones we will be experiencing this summer, the volatility of the ions within the rubber will start to produce a smell,” said Harris. “And if you can smell a substance like that, it probably means that it is not long term.”

In 2016, a large outcry of parents in the Edina School District erupted, due to the turf’s corruption of carcinogens that lay within the artificial fields. According to the Star Tribune, the health risks of these pellets emerged after NBC News and ESPN reported soccer players from Washington state developing cancer due to them playing on the alleged poisonous fields.

The anatomy of HHS stadium’s turf is designed to have water run-off the field, taking the unbound and loose turf into the drains, located between the field and the track.

“Minnesota obviously has a larger water supply, so if enough of these heavy and harmful metals from our turf fields get into our systems there could be repercussions, especially since we have so much turf at our school,” Harris said.

These pollutants are easily identifiable. On the HHS campus alone, wetlands are already being impacted. The chains of ponds west of the NJH parking lot are currently filled with runoff of turf pellets, litter and old playground equipment.

In addition to the unbound turf pellets inferring with the community’s natural ecology, the turf fields meddle with essential decomposition of the fields.

“With turf fields, decomposers are unable to breakdown substances that would otherwise be broken down with natural resources that grass has to offer,” said Harris. “Take a piece of gum for example. If someone were to spit their gum onto grass, it would break down, slowly but it would eventually [break down]; with turf fields it wouldn’t be able to decompose at all.”

Despite turf having negative impacts on the environment, turf also contains positive influences as well. The district will use significantly less water for turf, than they did for grass fields. In addition, the district’s money and chemical use to fertilize the fields will go down, resulting in lower maintenance and overall costs. The turf fields can also benefit the district due to other groups in the community renting the fields out, giving Hopkins a profit.  

Patrick Poquette, supervisor of building and grounds in the Hopkins district, commented on the build of athletic turf fields and how the drainage systems work, regarding them.

“There are two types of resilient infill within HHS’ new synthetic turf fields,” said Poquette, over email. “There is Ecofill that is a patented product that is manufactured with a combination of plastic, rubber and clay. The other infill is recycled rubber, that had been thoroughly cleaned, prior to being shipped to the school. Both products are embedded into the turf fibers, causing very little migration caused by athletes or rainfall.”  

The design system of the turf fields has multiple layers. The order from top to bottom consists of rubber, silica sand, fine aggregate, coarse drainage rock and sand. This system works as a filtration system for storm weather.

In addition to the filter system of the artificial grass, there is a network of drainage pipes located at the bottom of the last sand layer. This network allows the draining of excess water off the fields and collect loose turf with it, and slowly allows the unbound water to flow into the city sewage system.

“Since Hopkins got rid of all of the grass fields, the Nordic team was forced to move practice locations,” said Lily Provenzano, senior. “We had to take a bus or carpool over to practice locations off campus.”

The act of bussing athletes over to West uses unnecessary resources that impact the environment. The issue of extra transportation of students off-campus is related to the fall sports season, when the Lindbergh turf fields were unable for use.

In hopes of helping reduce the carbon footprint that HHS adds to, students and clubs have started to take action.

In past years, the HHS Earth Club raised money that went towards an environmentally friendly and recycled resource gatehouse, which is known as the ticket booth at the front of the Lindbergh parking lot.

Back in 2013, HHS earned a several thousand dollar grant from the Hopkins Education Foundation (HEF), that went to several different programs in this district, a portion of the grant going towards the HEF teaming up with HHS’ Earth Club to create a “greener” community, including solar panels and environmentally friendly insulation and roof.

In addition, in 2006, Dustin Kloempken, alumnus, received a $15,000 grant from the HEF to turn his dream of implementing solar panels at HHS. These solar panels were installed on the southwest side of the school, generating power for the science, math and technology classrooms.

On April 24, 2018, additional solar power generators were proposed by Kinect Energy Group for HHS, NJH, WJH and L. H. Tanglen Elementary school. If more solar panels were constructed for HHS, it would save about 591.5 kilowatt hour.  According to the Hopkins Schools website, the proposal document stated that the district wants to implement the solar panels to help preserve the school’s power, create efficiency and cut the district spending.

Besides for the turf fields, HHS has other contributors that are capable of doing just as much harm to the environment, if they continue to go without notice.

For Zoe Roemhildt, junior, there are other ways to help HHS’ and the overall community’s negative footprint, even if they are on a more minor scale.

Roemhildt is a part of a group, including artist Ani Kruse, sophomore, that wants to create new posters about the effects and benefits of properly recycling and composting leftover food and trash at HHS.

“I noticed that in the school there are a lot of misconceptions about where our waste goes,” Roemhildt said. “Considering how many people there are in the building, and how much waste we produce, I felt like we could do something really easy in order to change and raise awareness about this recurring problem.”

Both recycling and compost posters will be put in the cafeteria and commons, with the goal being to put up recycling posters in as well, in as many classrooms and hallways as possible.

The signs will also be displayed as bigger posters for students to use, but if they want to know more, there will be other posters to give more information and to help understand the process. The posters will be put up next school year.

“We make the most food and we waste the most food and it has become a problem,” Roemhildt said. “Not only is it bad for the environment, but it seems like the school is just wasting their money as well.”

HHS promotes displays of plastic water bottles and metals cans across the building within its vending machines and in the lunch lines, that more often than not, end up in the wrong places, despite them being recyclable.

The use of everyday objects like disposable forks and unused paper not being disposed of correctly, can do serious damage to the environment as well.  

“Hopkins really does need to start focusing on recycling and thinking about the environment more. It’s been ridiculous,” said Sarah Fogel, senior. “The amount of paper we use in this school is ridiculous why we wouldn’t be recycling.”

It takes just a couple of misplaced items to derail the process of recycling and compost, resulting in carbon footprints growing.

“In the end helping the environment really isn’t that hard,” Roemhildt said. “You just have to be mindful about what products you’re using and how you will dispose of them; just from that huge improvements can be made in our community’s environment and the environment as a whole.”   


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