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‘Make Cedar Springs a little more beautiful’: Eco Club aims to curb emissions

Volunteers sought for May 11 planting day

Cedar Springs — The Cedar Springs High School Eco Club is getting ready for a massive undertaking, and they need the community’s help to pull it off.

In an effort to offset carbon emissions from the high school, the club will plant 150 saplings on May 11 at locations throughout Cedar Springs. Students in the club are hoping community members will lend a hand and ensure the planting goes smoothly.

“With the amount of trees we have, we’re going to need a lot of people to help, outside of students and parents,” said sophomore Logan Redes. “Just having more hands to help makes less work for everybody, and it can go a lot quicker.”

Adult volunteers are especially needed, said teacher and Eco Club adviser Heidi Schuitema. Those interested can email her at heidi.schuitema@csredhawks.org.

‘When I have kids, I want them to have a world they can actually live in. Not a bunch of dirty old water and not-very-nice air.’

— sophomore Phoenix Spitler

How it Started & Why it Matters

During its first year in 2022-23, the Eco Club paid a visit to Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Copemish, where they attended Tree School, a program focused on teaching seed propagation and other ways to fight climate change.

“When we left there, they challenged us to plant 5,000 trees in five years, and this kind of fit into that,” Schuitema said.

The goal was originally to purchase 1,615 trees to offset an estimated 1,938 tons of carbon emitted by the high school last year, according to Cedar Springs’ Tree-Plenish website.

They didn’t quite reach their goal, but that’s OK, said Schuitema.

“I think it was neat for the kids to realize how much it takes,” she said. “We’re going to try to hit it harder next year.”

Sophomore Tiana Tubbs, foreground, arranges plants

Planting the 150 trees they were able to purchase is going to be more than enough of a challenge for this first attempt. Eco Club members like Logan, and fellow sophomores Tiana Tubbs and Phoenix Spitler, are passionate about the project and keen to get started. They are team members of the project, along with Ryen McDermott and Kyla Tubbs.

“Climate change is a huge issue, and offsetting it is really important,” Tiana said. “Trees also have other benefits: they can provide shade, they can help with biodiversity, they can create habitats for animals, and overall I don’t think there’s any downsides to a few good trees.”

Tiana hopes to study some kind of environmental science in college, and Logan, already an Eagle Scout, plans to be a DNR officer.

Phoenix is considering a career in psychology, but he said environmental work will always be a passion.

“When I have kids, I want them to have a world they can actually live in. Not a bunch of dirty old water and not-very-nice air,” he said, adding: “If I can make Cedar Springs a little more beautiful, maybe people will go outside more.”

‘I don’t think there’s any downsides to a few good trees.’

— sophomore Tiana Tubbs

How Does it Work?

Tiana broke down the technical aspects of the project succinctly, explaining that carbon emissions are greenhouse gases generated by human activity.

“They can trap heat inside the atmosphere, which can heat up the earth and cause all sorts of different weather phenomena,” she explained.

Trees, though, absorb carbon as part of photosynthesis.

“A byproduct of them making their food is that they produce oxygen instead of more carbon, which is helpful,” she said.

During the planting event, American sycamore, Colorado spruce and sugar maple saplings will be put in the ground to help with the cause. Those tree species were chosen because they’re all native plants that are particularly efficient carbon processors, they live longer than other species and they can survive during the winter without dying off, Logan said.

From left, sophomores Tiana Tubbs, Logan Redes and Phoenix Spitler in the greenhouse area at Cedar Springs High School

Club members are urging people to help with the planting, and encouraging other students to join Eco Club if they’re interested in the environment. 

“It’s a really good feeling to get something done. It’s a very rewarding thing,” Tiana said.

The club has taken on several projects to promote environmental change at Cedar Springs, and helped the district earn its Green School and Emerald School certifications from the state. Next up is an Evergreen certification, which the club hopes to obtain next year.

In addition to the 150 saplings Eco Club members will plant, about 250 others, ordered through the club, will be placed in the ground by community members.

Read more from Cedar Springs: 
Finding the right vision: High-schoolers create commercials for area businesses
‘A champion for our kids’: FFA advisor earns state recognition

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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