Counting conservation efforts
Bethlehem Central Middle School is committed to equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary for overcoming obstacles in their future. This school emphasizes that the choices humans make every day affect the overall health of the planet, and constantly ask students to be conscious of what they consume, whether energy, food, or water. Bethlehem Central Middle School also seeks to provide the infrastructure for students to make good, environmentally conscious decisions. During the morning announcements on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students from each homeroom are asked to empty their blue paper recycling buckets into large totes that are located in central points of the building. Teams of students are in charge of weighing these totes and logging the data. At the end of the month, the school TV station announces the amount of paper the school recycled and the environmental benefits of these savings, including number of trees saved, gallons of water conserved, and amount of pollution avoided. In addition to the school’s recycling efforts, Bethlehem Central underwent renovations in 2006 and subsequently measured a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2009 and 2010. A comprehensive control system monitors the energy production of the school’s two-kilowatt solar array, which is installed on the school library and helps to power the school facilities. Bethlehem Central minimizes its water use by using grey water for irrigation before potable water, and by conducting annual audits to prevent or eliminate leaks. Bethlehem Central earned the ENERGY STAR award in 2010 with an energy performance score of 78. Also, an organic school garden, with over 1,500 square feet of raised beds, can be found on campus, supplying fresh produce to the school’s cafeteria.
Evergreen Charter School, Asheville, NC
Understanding the Nature of Children
This kindergarten through eighth grade public charter school has made environmental responsibility a key component of their mission and is now reflected in the school’s community outreach, facilities, and culture. The students score 30 percent above the state average on science tests. This school also has an adventure component, and teachers lead their students on several outdoor challenges like mountain biking and rafting every year. On average, 96 percent of Evergreen’s graduates participate in a four-day Outward Bound course with a focus on health and leadership. Staff address environmental and sustainability issues in their blog “The Nature of Children.” The adventure physical education program includes rock climbing, white water rafting, camping and backpacking. The 8th grade final project consists of researching and defending a position on hydrofracking. Local Appalachian history and culture are woven throughout the curriculum. Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods is required staff reading. Most community service projects are environmentally focused and classes average 200 field experiences per year. The school site includes rain gardens, native plantings, a strawbale and cob playhouse, a hoop house for winter vegetables, fruit bushes, apple trees, and vegetable garden. The school uses recycled and chlorine-free toilet paper and eco-friendly cleaning products. Students use cloth towels in classrooms and bring cloth napkins and utensils from home. Further, the school’s facility, which was built in the 1960s, has been retrofitted so that it exceeds some LEED standards. Some of the campus retrofits include replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs; installing green bathrooms with low flush toilets, waterless urinals, and electric eye sinks; installing two photovoltaic solar panel systems that offset energy usage, and adding a monitoring tool on the school’s website so that students, staff, and members of the community can see the energy and cost savings and the carbon dioxide levels avoided. The school owns and operates two biodiesel buses for off-campus field trips, and the fuel is obtained from a local company that obtains recycled cooking oils from over 400 local restaurants.
American Hebrew Academy, Greensboro, NC
Home to one of the world’s largest closed loop geothermal heating and cooling systems
While the American Hebrew Academy features organic architecture and the campus’s 26 buildings are integrated into the 100-acre natural landscape, one of the school’s most impressive green components lies under the surface. Five hundred feet beneath the school’s soccer stadium and track is one of the world’s largest closed loop geothermal heating and cooling systems. Compared with conventional heating and cooling methods, the Academy sees 40 percent savings annually, and the energy savings attributed to current systems operations are estimated to pay for the added capital installation cost by the spring of 2013. Additionally, the geothermal pump house serves as a living classroom where students can learn about geothermal energy and earth science. Students also gain real life experience through a science research internship course, which places them in research labs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where they investigate topics such as optimal sustainable grasses for cattle feeding and dealing with disease vectors. The school infuses the Judaic concept of ‘healing the earth’ into curriculum, offering such courses as Eco-Judaism. Finally, because 80 percent of the Academy’s students are residential and are each served 20 meals per week, in 2007, the school made the decision to switch to using locally grown produce, thereby reducing transportation costs and seeing an increase in quality of the cafeteria’s fruits and vegetables. The school’s garden, fed by compost created from kitchen waste, also supplies food for the cafeteria and the local food bank.
Loveland High School, Loveland, OH
A HealthierUS Schools Challenge Bronze serving all-organic food
Loveland High School has worked closely with the Loveland School District to create comprehensive programs that have been implemented to reduce the district’s overall environmental impact. In order to reduce GHG emissions, the district created and implemented an energy improvement plan that was the first of its kind in Ohio. This plan allowed for many energy-efficient upgrades in Loveland High School, like the installation of motion and infrared sensors on lighting fixtures and changing light bulbs, which resulted in savings in the first year of $350,000. Loveland High School, a 72-acre campus that includes 15 acres of woods, prairie, and a rain garden, also has achieved a 59 percent water reduction with the installation of low-flow faucets. All buses have been retrofitted with catalytic converters through use of an Environmental Protection Agency grant. Students compost kitchen waste and petitioned to ban the sale of water bottles. Students and staff use reusable water containers to reduce the waste of water. As for the school’s overall nutrition, the school serves all-organic and 30 percent local foods, achieving a HealthierUS School Challenge Bronze award. Students have called local McDonald's and Circle K gas stations to ask that they stop using Styrofoam cups. Students also called the local Best Buy to inquire what they do with the old television sets that are collected by Best Buy as part of a community service projects. Students found that Best Buy collects the televisions for parts, and throws the unused portion in the trash. Students asked that Best Buy take the collected televisions to 2TRG, a local e-recycling facility, and educated the managers on the ills of throwing televisions and other e-waste away.