An Essex Student Wants to Offset School's Paper Usage by Planting 270 Trees | 802 Much | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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An Essex Student Wants to Offset School's Paper Usage by Planting 270 Trees

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Iris Hsiang - COURTESY OF IRIS HSIANG
  • Courtesy Of Iris Hsiang
  • Iris Hsiang

Spring may seem a long way off, but Iris Hsiang already has a plan for planting.

The Essex High School junior is selling trees to offset the paper used by the school. For the 2018-19 academic year, that amounted to an estimated 2.7 million sheets, she said. 

"That's just a crazy amount to be going through for paper alone," Hsiang said. "And it's a crazy carbon footprint."

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Hsiang is aiming to sell at least 270 trees. For $5, one can buy an 18- to 24-inch red maple, red oak or sycamore sapling. On April 24, a team of volunteers will fan out across Essex to plant the trees. Hsiang encourages anyone who wants a tree to request one, even if they can't afford one or don't live in her town.

"Climate change and inequity are just so intrinsically intertwined that we can't be further marginalizing people," she said. 

Hsiang got involved through the Vermont Youth Lobby, which advocates for policies to fight the climate crisis. She's working on the event with a student-led organization called Tree-Plenish, which was started by two Massachusetts high school students and organizes events around the country, including about 90 this year. One of the founders, Lizzy Elsner, now attends the University of Vermont. 

Hsiang's only sold about 50 trees thus far but is optimistic that she'll hit her goal. Meanwhile, several of her classmates have signed up to help plant. During the pandemic, Hsiang noted, outdoor events are a good way for groups of students to safely gather and make a difference.

"I am committed to building a future for me and all of my peers," Hsiang said. The climate crisis "is what's going to be on our minds for the coming years because it's so important."

To request a tree, click here.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Paper Plant"