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Sustainability fair at Pioneer Thursday

NORTHFIELD — Sustainability isn’t just about low-wattage light bulbs, local food and fuel-friendly vehicles.

Come to Pioneer Valley Regional School’s second-annual sustainability night Thursday for a glimpse at students’ take on low-impact living.

From 6:30 to 8 p.m., students from grades 7 to 12 will show a variety of sustainability-centered projects, from recycled artwork to a study on the effects of medication in wastewater.

“I’m doing a project on estrogen in the environment, and the effects it may have,” said senior Olivia Smiaroski, of Northfield. “When people take hormone-containing or anti-depressant medications, it doesn’t get removed in wastewater treatment.”

If it gets back into our lakes and rivers, she said, it can cause sterility in fish, and decreased fertility in men, according to some studies.

“Some sources say it’s not a problem, that there’s more estrogen in milk than drinking water,” she continued. “I’ve been trying to find the most un-biased sources, which can be difficult.”

Though she tried to be objective in her investigation, Smiaroski still has room for opinions.

“I’m really excited to talk to people Thursday, and get their viewpoints,” she said.

The school’s ninth-graders will also present the findings of a research project, theirs on people’s generation of carbon dioxide, and how it can be mitigated.

On the lighter side, the event will also feature a gallery of “green” arts and crafts.

“We made sustainable artwork out of recycled and reused things,” said sophomore Kevin Hadsel, of Northfield.

His recycled rendition of a potted plant pops off the page; a “stem” of green yarn grows out of a soda bottle bottom, supporting petals cut from the patterns on a used paper coffee cup.

Classmate Birgit Kuhlka, also of Northfield, made a poster of illustrated sustainability tips.

“I used colored pencils made from used tires and recycled wood,” she said.

Seventh-grade science teacher Susan Fisher’s classroom has been cluttered with the art projects of her students, covering nearly every square inch of counterspace.

“My students have been ‘upcycling,’” she said proudly.

Upcycling involves making usable goods out of things once destined for the dump. Wendell’s Lou Leelyn, of Lou’s Upcycles, recently came by to show the students how to make things, including new wallets, out of old packaging.

Many of the students went on to craft robots, boats, birdhouses, and many other things out of usually discarded items.

Shop teacher John Passiglia’s students have been working on a solar air heater, which they’ll display Thursday.

When the shallow, glazed “thermosyphon” box is exposed to sunlight, air in an outside chamber heats and rises, flowing through an outlet in the top of the box, while pulling cool air through its inlet, passively heating a room.

Passiglia’s students will also display plans for a green visitor’s center, an octagonal structure made from bent Plexiglass. The building itself will be made and shown for an upcoming statewide competition.

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