While surveying the lunchroom at Dawson County High School and seeing hundreds of students using Styofoam plates and cups and trashcans full of plastic, rising senior Roxie Friction knew she could do something to make her school more environmentally friendly.
She asked herself: “Our school system already sets the bar so high academically and athletically, why can’t we set a standard environmentally too?”
Seeing that the school no longer had an active environmental club, the 17-year-old took it upon herself to create the DCHS Go Green Club this spring to bring about small changes in her school aimed at reducing usage of non-biodegradable products and single use plastics.
“I thought ‘you know I can’t make a difference (nationally)…I know that’s a very broad and a very huge goal to make a national difference, but why not start small in my community and make a difference in my school?’” Fricton said.
But how does one teenager create changes that will affect an entire school?
For Fricton, it all started with a metal straw.
“Environmental advocates like me or anybody else that’s wanting to make a change anywhere is not asking to do 100 percent zero waste or go vegan… we’re asking you to do the smallest things,” Fricton said.
Refusing a plastic straw at a restaurant and purchasing a metal straw instead, is one example of a small change that adds up to a big impact according to Fricton.
“Small things like that make a difference,” Fricton said. “Everyone says ‘it’s just one straw’ but think about four billion people who said ‘it’s just one straw.’ That’s four billion straws that are going to end up in the trash.”
According to statistics provided by Earth Day Network, half a million plastic straws are used in the world every single day, and 32 percent of 78 million tons of single use plastics like straws don’t make it to a landfill or are recycled.
Looking at the future of the planet, Fricton wanted to make impactful changes in Dawson County and began by officially launching the Go Green Club in March with the selling of t-shirts she designed.
And for those who purchased a shirt, they also received a metal straw as a free gift.
“I can’t tell you how happy it makes me seeing some students asking me questions like how they can change,” Fricton said. “All the hard work that I put into it, it’s all worth it.”
Fricton said her fellow students were so receptive to the Go Green Club that within three days, the club had sold out of all its shirts.
To date, the club has sold more than 65 shirts.
Of course the club is more than selling shirts. It’s led by Fricton and a small group of four ambassadors that have worked to bring about environmentally friendly change to the school system by eliminating the use of Styrofoam districtwide.
“I made that decision for the club and for that to be one of our goals because Styrofoam never breaks down. It never decomposes. It will be created and will be here until the end of time,” Fricton said.
Fricton met with Superintendent Damon Gibbs to discuss the possible options the district could take to eliminate the use of Styrofoam cups, bowls and plates at each of the schools.
“I have really enjoyed working with Roxie Fricton this year. Under her leadership we were able to make some changes in products that we purchase through our nutrition program that make us more eco-friendly,” Gibbs said. “Roxie has big plans for the Go Green Club and I look forward to her group leading a recycling effort at the high school.”
This spring, Dawson County Schools made the switch from Styrofoam products to biodegradable natural paper products, all products being the same price.
“Same size, just better for the environment and better for our community because the second it meets that landfill it’ll break down a lot faster,” Fricton said.
With the club’s first goal accomplished, Fricton said they have turned their attention to putting recycling bins in the high school with hopes of putting one in each classroom as well as in the main common areas like the lunchroom, gymnasium and stadium.
The club has partnered with Keep Dawson County Beautiful in order to bring recycling to the school.
Fricton represents the club on the Keep Dawson County Beautiful board as well as the North Georgia Conservation Coalition board in order to bridge the school with the larger community.
“We are so happy to have Roxie and the Go Green Club as a part of the North Georgia Conservation Coalition,” Coalition cofounder Bette Holland said. “Roxie is an amazing young woman who has a passion for protecting our environment. She and the other young people who are working with her will be the catalyst for the ‘older generation’ to finally admit there is a problem and it is time to start working on fixing it.”
With her senior year quickly approaching, Fricton is already working on her goals for the club next year which includes removing plastic utensils, creating an outdoor lunchroom space for students and bringing a compost system to turn food waste into compost that can be used by the agricultural classes.
“I just want my school to be as ecofriendly as possible,” Fricton said. “Everything down to the toilet paper we use, I want it to be ecofriendly, and I want our school and community to set an example for other communities.”
Fricton said she wants the Go Green Club to be a modern club that appeals to her peers and is more than an extracurricular to put in service hours.
“It’s not your average club that you’re just going to for hours,” Fricton said. “I want this to be a club that they’re passionate about and they realize that they want to go to this club and make a difference.”
During her senior year, Fricton will continue as the club’s president while also being a dual enrollment student. She also hopes to take on a second work-based learning internship next year, having already interned at the Dawson County News during her 2019 spring semester.
Fricton is also looking ahead to the future of the club once she attends college to pursue a major in Environmental Management and Economics and a certificate in Sustainability Studies and Data Analysis.
She plans to check in from time to time and help with the club however she can.
“I think by building a strong foundation and connecting the community and connecting with the students at my school, we’ve got a great bunch there and I think that they’ll be able to handle it afterwards,” Fricton said.