Greendale — The Greendale School District's Administration and Sustainability Committee met for the last time this school year April 24 to be updated on its multiple "green" initiatives. The news was overwhelmingly positive.
The Greendale School District was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education on April 22 after receiving a Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award.
The Green Ribbon awardees were announced by Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots and the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Washington, D.C.
Forty-eight schools were honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health and ensure effective environmental education. Nine districts, including Greendale, were also honored with the District Sustainability Award. The school districts were voluntarily nominated by 30 state education agencies.
"I think this is very exciting to be the only district in Wisconsin to get this award," said Erin Green, director of business services and leader of the committee. "It gives awareness to what we're doing."
Greendale was nominated for the Sustainability Award by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which recognized the district's strides in reducing environmental impact; improving staff and student health; and implementing effective sustainability and environmental education over the past several years.
"(The) Greendale School District has made significant gains in reducing its environmental impact through energy use, waste reduction and sustainable water use," the DPI reported. "Its school sites have been developed, and outdoor sustainability education is promoted throughout the district."
The district formed its Sustainability Committee two years ago and has since come a long way, Green said.
The committee is composed of various district staff and community members interested in promoting environmental improvements, such as energy reduction and recycling.
Since its formation, the district has reduced energy and water use, placed a heavy emphasis on recycling and even established "school forests" for outdoor education.
Committee members also discussed ways to improve for the 2014-15 school year, such as acquiring larger recycling bins, potentially researching the district's "carbon footprint" and promoting bike transportation or car-pooling as a means of greener transportation.
Looking to improve even more
The district participated in the Kilowatt Challenge, an energy conservation campaign partnered by Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10, this school year to reduce energy consumption by 5 percent over a 12-month period.
By reducing energy consumption by 5 percent, the district could have saved approximately $20,000 in utility bills, the district reported.
Due to a very harsh winter, however, the school district does not appear to have reached that goal.
"Overall, the district is pretty much even (with last year's energy consumption)," said Melissa Rickert, Energy Manager and Sustainability Specialist for the Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10. Rickert helps facilitate sustainability efforts with the district. "The biggest user — Greendale High School — has reduced its energy significantly, but the weather plays a big part in this … and I do not see the schools meeting their 5 percent reduction."
"I don't want people to feel disheartened by this because we're doing our part to make a difference," Rickert added. "I'm very proud of the consistency of the team to accomplish this."
Committee members then discussed how to approach the Kilowatt Challenge differently next year.
"Yeah, we can definitely do it again next year," Green assured the committee, smiling confidently.