Green Team grows under Baumgartner’s leadership

Lynne Carty

Mrs. Baumgartner and the Green Team strive for a more eco-friendly school.


Mrs. Baumgartner and the Green Team strive for a more eco-friendly school.


 Special Education teacher Mrs. Karen Baumgartner is a busy woman at WHS, splitting her time between teaching several classes in the special education department, being a liaison to approximately 18 students, and participating in – or more accurately, dominating – her fantasy football spread. Even with her hectic class schedule, when that 2:05 bell rings signaling the end of another long school day, Mrs. Baumgartner isn’t one of those teachers you’re likely to see sprinting out to their cars. That’s because she chooses to volunteer her time working for a cause she cares deeply about by leading one of the most dedicated, helpful, passionate groups to come about at Walpole High in quite some time: the Green Team. Committed to their cause, the WHS Green Team is all about making WHS and the students and teachers who inhabit it a little less wasteful and a little more eco-friendly.

  Ever since she was young, Mrs. Baumgartner has realized the need to preserve our planet. “It was just always obvious not to take beautiful places for granted”, Baumgartner explained. Growing up, she spent many days in the outdoors at summer camp and on a lake with family in New Hampshire. The desire to care for the environment has stayed with Mrs. Baumgartner throughout the years as she and her husband still try to live a pretty green life. She hasn’t eaten a mammal in over 15 years, uses energy efficient light bulbs and her own bags for groceries, gives a good chunk of money to The Natural Resources Defense Council each year, and the list goes on. Unlike some toe-dippers who embrace some of the ideas of responsible consuming but don’t act on many of them, Mrs. Baumgartner isn’t putting on a show as head of the Green Team – she’s the real deal.

  Mrs. Baumgartner says she first came up with the Green Team because, after 10 years of teaching here, she was “fed up with seeing all the waste that goes on at the high school.” Soon enough, she found out that some other students at WHS felt the same way about people’s lack of respect for the environment, and that together they could do something about it; thus, the Green Team was born.

  The Green Team is not exactly what you’d call a massive group. Composed of about 14 kids, it is one of WHS’ smallest. Don’t let the numbers fool you though, because the passion that these students bring to the team makes them much more effective than clubs twice their size. “I’d rather have two awesome kids than 20 who sit around and do nothing” said Mrs. Baumgartner. Unlike some clubs where kids idly sit and stare at the clock during meetings, kids on the Green Team are genuinely invested in what’s going on – which helps, because Mrs. Baumgartner and the team are hoping to accomplish a lot this year.

  Meeting about once every week, the team usually spends their meetings collecting recycling around the school and organizing ways they can go about making a difference. Though they are most well known for their help with recycling, Mrs. Baumgartner hopes that the team can expand their efforts to help even more. To increase their positive impact on the environment, the Green Team will continue to do things like sell reusable water bottles and plan a “Green Day” during spirit week, while also taking things up a notch by taking on new and bigger projects. “Yeah we go around and pick up bottles”, Baumgartner said at their last meeting, “but I want to be more than just bottle pickers.” 

  One of Mrs. Baumgartner’s ideas this year is to try putting through a petition to put a deposit on noncarbonated bottles so as to prevent them from ending up in landfills. Not only will getting signatures help to clear up landfills, but The Boston Globe estimates that it will “save between 4 and 7 million dollars in municipal trash costs, and unclaimed deposits will send another 20 million to the state to help local governments with recycling and clean water programs”. 

  You would think that a group of students willing to give up their free time and dedicate it to cleaning up and bettering our school would be compensated somehow, but so far it has been quite a thankless job. In fact, as of now group members are required to pay the mandatory activity fee of $30. Most of Green Team’s time is spent doing work for the school’s benefit, helping out with recycling, and creating a more eco-friendly institution. With all their hard work, it sort of seems like the district should be paying them, not the other way around. 

  Mrs. Baumgartner and the Green Team are working fervently to improve our school, but 15 people’s efforts can only go so far without a little cooperation from the rest of our school. Even doing the smallest things like shutting off the lights when you leave a room, shutting down idle computers, and putting your recyclables in the right bin can make a significant difference. If she could get students and faculty to do one thing differently, Mrs. Baumgartner says it would be “to buy reusable water bottles and coffee cups”.  Even if kids only use the reusable containers every so often, each time they do they will be saving another bottle from ending up in another landfill. 

  Although nowadays it seems as though there’s not much hope left for saving our increasingly polluted world, having groups like the Green Team and people like Mrs. Baumgartner around could make all the difference. In regards to the rest of us toe dippers, Mrs. Baumgartner said she thinks our generation has a real shot at drastically improving our environment and saving it for the years to come.  As Americans we are facing some serious problems and over-pollution, but Mrs. Baumgartner thinks it  is possible to change the direction in which our generation is headed: “I have faith in you guys.”