Sustainability Spotlight: Itai Trainin at Southeast High School

This month’s Sustainability Spotlight is shining on Itai Trainin, a senior at Southeast High School. Itai currently serves as co-president of Southeast’s NEATure Club and has championed sustainability in the building and beyond since his freshman year.

Itai says he initially joined the club to connect with other students during COVID and then quickly joined NEATure Club’s leadership team. As club president, he is responsible for organizing the annual Earth Week plant sale to fund improvements to the school’s courtyard. 

These plant sales provide an opportunity to spark deeper conversations about sustainability and the environment. “It’s like a little foot in the door,” he said.

“I think that having something to care for... causes you to be more aware of your surroundings and aware of the environment in general.”

Itai and NEATure Club also coordinate a sustainability-themed mural during Earth Week each year. Itai said the club leans on nature puns to get students engaged, and this year they are bringing back the “sustainabili-tree.”

Itai (L) with club co-president Macie at a trunk-or-treat event

“It’s a big paper tree, and then you write down a little sustainable action on a leaf and you put it up there,” Itai said. This format made its debut during Itai’s first year with the club, and he’s excited to bring it back in his final year at Southeast: “I think it’s a nice tie-in for me.”

Outside of Earth Week, Itai and NEATure Club coordinate the courtyard cleanup, community litter cleanups, waste container labels, and various outreach projects. Itai said he is proud to have been a part of cultivating a space for environmentally minded students to come together during his time at Southeast. “I just think it’s really cool to see how many people are invested,” he said.

Southeast's courtyard after a recent cleanup

After graduation, Itai plans to pursue a degree in environmental policy to help bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and actionable change. “I do think the environmental sciences side is very important,” he said, “but what matters more is what we do with that information.”

For Itai, using that information means examining how policy can work to support the people impacted by environmental issues. “I think that most people do not view environmental issues as people issues enough, despite the fact that they very much are,” he said. Because of his focus on individuals and communities, Itai says his two main areas of interest are urban environmentalism and Indigenous environmentalism.

“Environmental policy really is about the environment but to me, at least, the more important aspects of it involve people.”

For other students hoping to get involved with sustainability, Itai recommends finding and building a network to help you accomplish your goals. To connect with fellow student leaders in the district, Itai attended both the 2023 and 2024 Students of Sustainability Summit.

He also collaborates within NEATure Club to generate new ideas and approaches to their shared mission, and advises other students to make connections with LPS staff members, too.

“I think teachers can be a really integral part in [student action],” he said. “Yes, students can do action on their own, but I think it’s very important that a guiding adult can help.”

A recent project led Itai to pursue a solution to eliminate plastic cutlery from Southeast’s cafeteria in favor of reusable metal silverware. “I talked to our principal about ‘who should I contact about this?’, and he gave me a list.” 

That list included LPS Sustainability Coordinator, Brittney Wees, who took Itai’s concern to Nutrition Services. Metal cutlery has since returned to Southeast, all because of Itai’s initiative. “Just getting the word out there, getting a name, is a lot more impactful than people think it is,” he said.

We are so impressed by the passion and drive student leaders like Itai bring to our district! Our team is grateful for Itai’s dedication to sustainability over the years.