Green Schools Profiles
Looking for inspiration? You've come to the right place.
Read on for short but sweet stories from all kinds of schools that are reducing their environmental footprint while generating fun, learning, and action for the whole school community. These Profiles comprise our "Green Schools Honor Roll," schools and districts that have made real progress in improving the environmental health and sustainability of their school communities.
The schools profiled below took our Green Schools Quiz and scored 31 or higher. Let us hear from you!
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The Berkwood Hedge community made a commitment to set an example of sustainability and environmental awareness through our curriculum, recycling programs and purchasing decisions. It has been a great learning experience for students and adults throughout the school community.
Our school is an environmental magnet school. Our goal is for students to learn about the environment by doing, so they will become advocates for the environment and so they will seek green careers.
Our school is pursuing many green initiatives including zero waste, green events, no-idling, school gardens, green procurement, energy efficiency, and green building projects.
Calmont School had been located in Topanga for 30 years. In 2008, the school purchased the Cottontail Ranch property in Calabasas from Pepperdine University. The property needed a lot of renovations and there was no money to do them, as every penny was spent on the down payment for the property. So families and staff got to work.
The Circle of Nations School, an off-reservation intertribal boarding school serving 4th-8th grade students, aimed to 1) promote student health and sustainable local food systems; 2) educate students on the inter-connectedness of people, plants, and the planet; 3) help students gain better nutritional habits; 4) help students grow a portion of the food they eat at school; and integrate these lessons into the curriculum. Our success has been astonishing.
The school was slated to move from the Cow Hollow neighborhood in San Francisco to a historic building in the Presidio, and parents saw a unique opportunity to green the renovation of the new site, as well as address ongoing operational issues.
A desire to “do something” about the environment had been pondered off and on over the last couple of years by various people at Head-Royce. Students met with teachers in the Upper School’s Environmental Club. Recycling was happening in a half-hearted way. Some Board members and Administrators discussed energy use and conservation. But without a unifying plan, the efforts didn’t coalesce.
The idea for our school's Green Team originated at a casual dinner with friends, one of whom was on the school board. We were discussing how one child whose parent packs a juice box every day for school is throwing out approximately 175 juice boxes in one school year--so in our small school, we were getting into the THOUSANDS for juice boxes thrown out by our kindergarten class alone in one school year. Juice boxes take literally hundreds of years to disintegrate, so for one little box that gets a couple of sips and (often) the rest of its contents spilled down the front of the child, it has a disproportionately long life on earth. If the parent replaced the juice box with a reusable thermos (possibly offered in a fundraising sale with the school logo), one student alone would be making a measurable difference towards reducing landfill waste. This juice box conversation led to discussion of forming an environmental team at the school, which led to meetings with the school administrators, all of whom were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about greening the school to a much larger extent. This is, in part, because environmental efforts dovetail with one of the school's core Jewish values, Tikkun Olam, or "repairing the world."
John Muir School wanted to teach kids about healthy eating while greening the school campus.
Our school had no lunch program, only vending machines full of junk food.
We are a magnet school, and our extra value standard for 3rd grade is, "Manipulate conditions to simulate the environmental impact on living things." I told the students that we didn't need to manipulate the environment -- it's already been done! We just need to look at what it has done to life. We got started through the children's love of animals and our many school pets. The kids were very upset when they learned about oil spills and plastic can rings around birds' necks. So we decided we needed to do something. We can't change the world, but we can do our part.
Our green team decided initially that our first priority should be to try to create a zero waste school, so we’ve focused on that over the past two years. The first year, we educated students about recycling. The teachers got involved by integrating recycling themes into the curriculum, and the older students participated by creating songs and skits that reinforce these themes. The students presented the songs and skits to the rest of the school during all-school meetings and events. All of the students were also taught to use the new recycling system in their classrooms.
NUSD was confronted with a serious Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) incident in 2001, and it became clear that we needed to address the threats to student and staff health from poor indoor air quality. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is an invisible enemy of students and educators alike, triggering allergies and asthma, contributing to absenteeism, and reducing productivity. Asthma is the primary cause of school absenteeism from a chronic illness, which results not only in lost learning time, but also in lost revenue to schools. To reduce the number of asthmatic and allergic reactions among students, we set out to improve indoor air quality with the hope of maximizing our students’ learning experiences and performance, as well as staff productivity for the district.
Starting in 2002, a local non-profit, Food for Thought Ojai, approached the school district about serving healthier lunches and raising awareness about food, nutrition, and local agriculture in the Ojai Valley. Through looking at food, explorations expanded to include an examination of the waste that the schools were generating, including food waste. The school set a goal to reduce the overall amount of trash going from the school to the landfill. All of these explorations culminated in expanding the efforts district-wide to address comprehensively "green schools" issues.
Our small school district has 3 elementaries, a middle school, and two high schools. Before 2008, green efforts had emerged independently at some of the schools. These included school gardens, no-waste lunch campaigns, and, at one elementary, an environmental club. But without coming together to develop district-level policies, there were many issues that these independent efforts couldn’t address.
In 2004, the fourth grade team was wrestling with planning a service-learning project and decided to focus on reducing waste. Prospect Sierra fourth-graders began to perform regular and thorough audits of the tons of waste produced by students and faculty. We were shocked to learn that our school generated 17,380 pounds of reclaimed recyclables, and 30,967 pounds of garbage. In addition, 2,880 pounds of potential additional recyclables were being thrown away as garbage each year — a total of about 25 tons of waste generated per year on two campuses, most of it produced on monthly pizza days. That’s a lot of waste! The waste audits earned the nickname: “garbology,” and we decided to attack the waste problem on all fronts.
Our biggest concern on campus is reducing waste. We have done a variety of great Service Learning Projects over the years. Individual teachers have focused on environmental issues, but there had been no school-wide focus.
The School District pays the utility bills for each school, so staff and students have had little incentive to conserve water and energy resources. It was also frustrating that greening projects that did exist were taking place in piecemeal fashion, instead of being informed by a district-wide vision.
With help from Deborah Moore of the Green Schools Initiative, our Steering Committee decided the first goal was to write a policy creating the Green Schools Committee (GSC) and define the broad-based approach that has been key to the committee's success. The GSC's first task was to write an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing policy (EPP) for the School Board to adopt as district policy. This policy became the district-wide guide for all 10 campuses, 7,000 students, and 600 staff.
While Sequoyah has a strong environmental tradition, we needed to organize and evaluate our status. We developed a Mission Statement to guide us in taking care of people, things, and the environment and making the community a better place for all. Using our existing foundation of collaborative, hands-on, place-based learning, we inculcate practices that encourage careful use of resources and lasting change.
The Walnut Elementary Green Team has been working for four years to involve students and the community in energy conservation, schoolyard greening, reducing waste, and recycling -- and the kids have made lots of videos to share their experiences and lessons learned.