DECEMBER 2008 NEWSLETTER
2008 has been full of excitement and surprises. We at the Green Schools Initiative wish you a happy and peaceful holiday to enjoy some rest, and reflect on what's gone right this year. So many California schools have made great green strides! We've worked with many of you, and have shared some of your stories -- please keep them coming. As we contemplate our accomplishments, let's agree to seize every opportunity in the new year to continue and expand our efforts.
In this issue, Green Schools Initiative's Deborah Moore gives our first "On The Road" report about California green schools events. We also have news and stories to share about reducing school food waste; artificial turf; building green without going broke, and upcoming events. Let us hear from you! Contact us
ON THE ROAD : The Green Schools Initiative Makes the Scene
It's been a very busy fall for us giving training workshops at a variety of conferences. It is inspiring to meet so many people who are taking steps to reduce their school's environmental footprint! In October, at the Bioneers and Center for Ecoliteracy Eco-Schools Seminar: Educating for Sustainable Communities, Fritjof Capra gave an inspiring talk about the principles of teaching ecoliteracy and what it means to educate people in systems thinking. He reminded us that the principles of ecology are the principles of community and that life did not take over the planet by combat but by networking. So, we must all work together to creatively find solutions. Jeannette Armstrong of the Okanagan Nation in Canada and the En'Owkin Centre spoke about the difference between schooling - where you are indoctrinated into certain kinds of limited thinking and where you disassociate from nature and humanity- and learning - where you are engaged in mutual understanding and creative curiosity to learn life practices. Deborah Moore, Executive Director of the Green Schools Initiative presented a workshop "7 Steps to a Green School" and was excited to hear stories of the steps different people are taking in their own schools.
At the California School Board Association annual conference in San Diego, December 4-6, budget cuts were, sadly, the main topic of conversation. Delegates were treated to a special performance of Nilaja Sun's "No Child" one-woman show, where she inhabits 17 characters in a Bronx public high school of kids tagged as "chronic underachievers." In the "play within a play," Sun shows the realities our kids face and how a little care, trust, and positive feedback goes a long way towards fostering higher achievers. Deborah Moore of GSI gave two workshops: one on green cleaning in schools with Alicia Culver of the Green Purhcasing Institute; and one on "7 Steps to a Green School" with Cynthia Hawthorne, the School Board President for Santa Cruz City Schools District.
At the second California Green Schools Summit in Anaheim, December 8-10, delegates gathered to hear Hunter Lovins challenge educators to nurture the true environmental leaders - our children - and give them opportunities to solve the real-world problems they will inherit. Terry Taminem spoke in terms of the challenges that lie ahead and mobilized educators to ask President-elect Obama to do what it takes to create Green Schools that will build a new Green Economy. Deborah Moore of Green Schools Initiative led an all-day pre-conference seminar on "Operating Sustainable Schools," covering everything from indoor air quality, green cleaning, purchasing for climate protection, energy conservation, waste management, and water conservation. At the Summit, Deborah was involved with three more workshops: green cleaning, activating students, and 7 steps to a green school.
We are honored to participate in these events and invite you to check out the workshop presentations even if you weren't able to be there in-person.
NEWS: The Dangerous Downside of Artificial Turf
Thanks to drought and maintenance concerns, artificial turf fields are becoming a popular replacement for water- and labor-intensive grass fields at California schools. But recent tests have found that turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers may expose children to dangerous levels of lead, which can cause neurological problems, cancer, birth defects, and is especially harmful to developing children. A Center for Environmental Health (CEH) study showed that some turf samples contained lead levels 150 times the limits allowed in new federal standards for toys.
In June 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a warning that "As the turf ages and weathers, lead is released in dust that could then be ingested or inhaled, and the risk for harmful exposure increases." Two artificial turf fields in New Jersey were closed after state officials found up to 10 times the amount of lead that is allowed on contaminated sites being considered for home construction.
In September, the CEH filed lawsuits against retailers and synthetic turf companies for failing to disclose that their products contain lead, and is calling for turf makers to reformulate their products to eliminate the lead risk to children. Most manufacturers are voluntarily phasing out lead-based pigments. CEH recommends that parents and schools be sure that children wash their hands thoroughly after playing on artificial turf fields. Parents, schools or others with artificial turf fields can contact CEH’s Oakland office with questions about sending in samples for lead testing: (510) 655-3900.
See the Green Schoolyards Directory in our Green Buying Guide for resources
Project FROG: Growing Green School Buildings
Need a new classroom space or a library in a hurry, but don't have much left in your construction budget? You could choose a portable, known for unhealthy indoor air that can make kids and teachers sick. In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group, up to 2 million California kids spend their school day in thousands of portables across the state that may expose them to airborne toxins like formaldehyde and other cancer causing chemicals. Portables are also often a habitat for molds that can cause breathing problems, nausea, nosebleeds, and diarrhea.
But what if your school could build a new classroom easily and quickly, with mostly recycled materials, for about 25% less than traditional construction would cost, and end up with a healthy green building that produces more energy than it uses? Sounds like a dream, especially in tough economic times, but Project FROG buildings aim to meet these goals and more.
In awarding Project FROG its “Best of the Best” Engineering Excellence Award, Engineering Inc. Magazine lauded a Project FROG prototype as a “state-of-the-art modular classroom facility, providing overcrowded school systems with an economical alternative to trailers.” FROG stands for Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth, but it doesn’t seem to do the concept justice. Click on the link below to see photos of their buildings and learn more about their work:
UPDATE: Toxic Toys Make a Comeback
In our October e-news, we reported with pleasure that President Bush had signed the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act (CPSCRA), the nation's first-ever ban on lead and phthalates in children's toys and products. The new law banned the sale of toys containing six toxic chemicals as of February 2009. But now we've learned that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is playing fast and loose with interpreting the law: they are allowing any toys manufactured before February 2009 to stay on the shelves of the nation's toy stores. It's a nice holiday gift to the toy manufacturers, but not so much for children's health and safety. Moms Rising, a non-profit group that advocates on a variety of issues affecting mothers and children, is leading the charge to demand a strict interpretation of the CPRSA and get all toxic toys off store shelves by the February 2009 deadline. You can add your voice to many others to demand that the full ban be enacted:
Bay Area Environmental Education Fair
Date: Saturday, January 24, 2009
Time: 10am to 4:30 pm
Location: Marin Center Exhibit Hall, San Rafael
Teachers, hikers, adventurers, and budding environmentalists will find something to tickle their fancy at the annual BAEER Fair. The Fair boasts over 70 exhibitors and workshops for educators and families alike. The one-day event provides information on the latest in classroom materials, environmental education programs, field trip sites, conservation techniques, wildlife education and personal discovery. Kids under 6 are free; Adults - $12, Seniors - $10, Students - $8. Tickets will only be available at the event. For more information:
Contact: Ken Hanley