Senior Olivia Bunnell works passionately to preserve the planet


Weakened by the mile walk and the heavy jug of water, senior Olivia Bunnell quickly realized that, despite the exhaustion and seemingly harrowing conditions, she had it easy compared to people in Africa.

Through the 20 Liters program, a Michigan-based organization that strives to provide access to clean water for countries in need—specifically countries of Africa—Olivia experienced a fraction of what is an everyday occurrence for those countries.

“You first pick [the jug] up and you don’t realize how heavy it is,” Olivia said, “but then you’re walking with it and you realize how heavy and how much work it is. We only did a mile or so and were tired, and we [even] had partners switch back and forth with it.”

Struggling immensely with the single jug, Olivia came to realize that she had only dipped a toe into the massive pool of privation.

“It was crazy because there [are] people in Africa who walk to get their water every day for five or six miles there and back,” Olivia said. “And they carry five or six gallons of [water]. We realized we had it easy— and we were struggling so hard.”

Through the walk and other fundraising, Olivia hoped to shed a sliver of light on an important issue: water conservation and the importance of clean, safe water for everyone.

Conserving nature and everything encompassing nature has always been Olivia’s priority. Because she admires nature’s raw beauty, she wants to do everything she can to preserve it. When Olivia isn’t fundraising or walking miles with gallons of water, she grows vegetables in the greenhouse as a part of science teacher Chad Scholten’s independent study.

…if more people knew about how much water we use and how much is wasted, then something could be done to help the people who don’t have the water.”

— Olivia Bunnell

Olivia spends the last hour of each day immersing herself into the pure, simple aspects of nature—growing vegetables, watering plants, studying ways to conserve water—and she treats it as a hobby that doesn’t require rigor. Spending much of her time in the bright, open greenhouse, Olivia appreciates the hands-on hour of her day.

“[The independent study is] so hands-on; it’s kind of like a hobby or an occupation,” Olivia said. “I like having it [at the end of the day] because it’s like you have your whole day, and then you get to go in [the greenhouse] and just pick the lettuce or grow the plants and water them. And, it’s kind of stress relieving because [it’s] bright and green and fresh in there.”

Before Olivia was able to expand her environmental knowledge through the independent study, she took AP Environmental Science (APES) as a junior— the class that cemented her affinity for the study of nature.

“I’ve always liked nature,” Olivia said, “and then I took APES and Mr. Scholten really got me into it. I thought it was different because we did more labs—and not book labs—we would get our own dirt and test our own water. It’s more like a personal environmental experience.”

A year later, Olivia’s environmental experience is fully independent. From seeds to plants to food Olivia personally grows fruits and vegetables and takes care of a multitude of other plant life.

“We get to watch [food] grow, which is really cool,” Olivia said. “You don’t really see the food process of how you get your fruits and vegetables until you’re actually in there. We got to watch lettuce grow and everything, and I think it’s really interesting.”

While Olivia finds joy in the plant growth process, water conservation will always be her fervent passion.

“I feel like people take advantage of water—leaving it running during the day, leaving it on [while] brushing your teeth, super long showers,” Olivia said. “America takes up like the second biggest amount of water every year, and we could send that to other people or something.”

Striving to inform the people around her of a substantial issue, Olivia hopes that the unintentional negligence towards a basic necessity might lessen.

“I feel like if more people knew about how much water we use and how much is wasted,” Olivia said, “then something could be done to help the people who don’t have the water.”

The conservation of water and nature is Olivia’s driving passion that she will be pursuing.

“Right now, I’m really focused on water obviously, but then also conserving the nature that we have left,” Olivia said. “Conserving what we have and reducing how much we’re taking away [is important to me].”

Because nature has always been a source of pure joy, happiness, and contentment, Olivia will do everything she can to preserve what makes her happy.

“I feel like a lot of people aren’t in [nature]; they’re too caught up in their own lives, so they don’t know as much [about it],” Olivia said. “I feel like when I’m in nature, [everything] is simple. I like learning about it, and studying it, and trying to keep it how it is.”