Report Back: 2011 California Green Schools Summit
For the fifth year running, I was energized, inspired, and motivated by the California Green Schools Summit. Here's a brief roundup of what I experienced, along with some links to interesting and helpful resources.
Creating a Culture of Sustainability in Schools: Together with Sandy Wallenstein of Strategic Energy Innovations, I gave a workshop on "Creating a Culture of Sustainability in Schools." Download workshop presentations here.
21st Century Schools: State Superintendent Tom Torlakson gave a keynote speech, laying out a clear path for what the California Department of Education plans to do to foster 21st century "schools of the future." He presented the "Schools of the Future Report" prepared by a task force of 90 members from across California, highlighting ways to streamline state programs and policies to make it easier for all schools to access funds for energy efficiency, high performance modernization, and renewable energy projects. Torlakson has assigned Diane Waters to be the new CDE Liaison on Energy.
Need for Statewide Bond for School Facilities: Noting that more than 70% of the state's classrooms are more than 25 years old, Mr. Torlakson highlighted the need for a new statewide school bond that he hopes California voters will support in 2012 so we can finance the necessary sustainable school facility projects.
Environmental Literacy Efforts: He also highlighted California's Environment and Education Initiative (EEI), originally started with a bill Torlakson introduced and later passed by State Senator Fran Pavley. The EEI will help ensure that all California students will be environmentally literate.
New Green Ribbon Schools Awards: And he announced that California will participate in the new federal Green Ribbon Schools award program this year, which will recognize exemplary schools for reducing their environmental impacts, creating healthy learning environments, and teaching for sustainability. You can learn more by reading this interview with Superintendent Torlakson in the Green Technology magazine.
3 Key Elements for Sustainable Schools: Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club and Founder of the Blue Green Alliance, made a compelling case for what we need to do in our schools and why we need to do it now. He highlighted three key elements: ecological schools; outdoor education and using nature as a classroom; and using your hands - not just your head - in school, through experiential and career technical education. Mr. Pope also forcefully argued for why we all - as citizens and voters - need to support public education and public institutions in the face of this trend calling for ever more cuts in public services, schools, parks, roads, clean water, and all else "government."
New Technologies: At the Expo and Trade Show, I came across a few new technologies that could really help schools reduce waste and save money.
1) One is a compact "bioreactor" composting system. Often for schools, the large volume of food scraps makes on-site composting difficult or even illegal. And most counties in California do not yet have commercial-scale compost facilities. The XACT Composting System meets EPA regulations for a stable, pathogen-free, safe and controlled closed system. It can convert food waste into compost in just 4 to 7 days, and can process volumes of 1 - 4 cubic yards of waste per day. It requires a space about 8' x 26', depending on the size of the unit. This is perfect for schools and districts!
You can learn more at www.xactsystemscomposting.com
2) I also learned about Springboard Biodiesel - "the campus cure for diesel" - that is a self-contained unit that schools can use to make their own biodiesel from a school's used cooking oil and use it in school buses or other vehicles. And the cost turns out to be about 95 cents per gallon of biodiesel! This is a fully-automated appliance that comes in 3 sizes: 40, 50 and 100 gallons. The equipment can pay for itself in just 5-6 months, depending on your production and use volume. That's a Return on Investment of less than one year!!! Biodiesel burns cleaner than regular diesel, reduces pollution and carbon emissions, reduced waste, and will blend with other diesel fuels. The equipment is made in California. And there are great curriculum resources to help teach students science as a companion with this technology.
Learn more here: www.springboardbiodiesel.com
3) I was reminded about the fantastic, and yet underutilized, CREEC resource. This is an amazing online directory of all kinds of environmental education resources across California: professional development workshops, a searchable resource and curricula directory, field trips, standards, a speakers bureau, grant opportunities, legislative updates and more. Please check it out: www.creec.org
2011 Leadership Awards: Finally, the 2011 Leadership Awards were presented to teachers, districts, curriculum, energy and other projects that are pioneering sustainability pathways in the Golden State in innovative ways. Learn more about the winners here!
If you missed the Summit, I hope I gave you a flavor of the excitement and new ideas being generated there. Plan ahead now to join us in 2012 in Pasadena!