By Laurie Caswell-Burke
Earth Day started this week off celebrating 43 years since its inception in Seattle Washington where a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylor Nelson organized a national teach in. Seven months later during what many of us recall as turbulent times, Earth Day spawned on April 22, 1970 with over 12,000 events taking place across the country at high school and college campuses. Earth Day laid the ground work for several key environmental pieces of legislative initiatives including Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The seventies continued to be a robust time for environmental activism including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fast forward to 2013, when our local Shelburne Community School was recently awarded the Green Ribbon Award by the U.S. Department of Education—one of 64 schools selected in the United States and one of three from Vermont. On behalf of our entire community it is with great pride that I extend a huge sense of gratitude for the countless individuals who made this possible.
This is a BIG honor for our local community school and clearly one to be celebrated. School administrators, teachers, parent volunteers, maintenance crew, the food service team, a school nurse and dedicated enthusiastic students collectively worked diligently to achieve this honor. SCS serves as an impressive model for other schools to emulate. Two other Vermont schools also share this recognition: St. Albans City Elementary School and Reading Community School.
Schools that receive this award demonstrate exemplary action in reducing environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness of students and staff, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education which incorporates civic skills and green career pathways. At SCS, David Kelly, Head of Maintenance and his crew have been busy making changes that have reduced electricity usage by 240,000kWh or 32 percent. This translates to an annual savings of $30,000 plus in electricity costs. Among these changes include interior lighting retrofits, removal of a vending machine, and installation of an efficient natural gas boiler. Working closely with Efficiency Vermont offered expertise in the process.
Classroom curriculum across the grades provide countless examples of sustainability with classroom projects that relate to composting, recycling, the water cycle, and energy. The FEED program has connections to every classroom. There are 18 on-site gardens managed by FEED with food grown served in the cafeteria’s and classroom. The Table to Farm program donates over 90 pounds of pure food waste to nearby New Village Farm keeping a smile on many chickens faces—now that is local eating!
Field Trips, a jogathon and “Fitness February” are just a few of many activities that keep students focused on healthy fun and also includes a safe route to school system in place including bike lanes and miles of new sidewalk.
There is still much work to be done as we commemorate another Earth Day! This year marks something we can all be proud. You Rock SCS!
For more information visit: www.ed.gov/green-ribbon-schools.