Environmental Web Site Launch Planned by Broward Schools
There’s an old adage that if you need to eat an entire elephant, it is best to eat it one bite at a time. That is the approach taken by the Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) in its determination to become environmentally friendly and ecologically sound, while teaching its students how to “Live Green, Learn Green” for the rest of their lives.
The last five years have seen the District achieve a remarkable string of successes and cost savings by focusing on the highest, best uses of natural resources.
When vehicles need to be replaced, when buildings need to be remodeled, when landscaping needs to be replanted, when new buildings are built, the District – as a matter of policy – accomplishes those tasks in the most ecologically sound means possible. And along the way the students learn valuable lessons about living green.
On March 25, the District will unveil a new Web site describing in detail the steps taken to encourage an attitude of “Live Green, Learn Green.” The Web site (browardschoolsgogreen.com) will serve as a “green portal,” a template for other school districts, large and small, that want to promote environmental awareness and action among students, parents, faculty and staff.
It also will serve as a model for businesses, industries, governments and residential developments that could adapt the School District’s programs for their particular situations.
“Our Environmental Strategic Plan wasn’t created on a whim,” said Robert D. Parks, Ed.D., a 24-year member of the Broward County school board. “Good environmental stewardship is an obligation for all of us. Because it conserves resources and saves money, there are very practical reasons to undertake it in a school district and teach the appropriate lessons to our kids.”
The BCPS program began 15 years ago with a recycling effort that paid immediate dividends. Five years ago, after Hurricane Wilma uprooted trees and shrubs all over the county, the school board voted to replace the destroyed plants with shrubbery and trees native to Florida and capable of surviving the vagaries of Florida weather, including hurricanes and drought.
Over the years, the program has grown. These are just some of the accomplishments:
• The District has adopted EPA-recommended indoor-air-quality practices for moisture and mold control and cleaning and maintenance techniques. All custodial products are green and help decrease the spread of germs. All paints are water-based, which emit fewer volatile organic compounds, and petroleum-based paint thinners have been banned.
• To conserve fuel, protect indoor- and outdoor-air-quality, and reduce maintenance costs, school buses are not permitted to idle for more than five minutes.
• Two School District buildings are being designed to meet the certification standards of the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
• The District is using solar roof panels on new buildings, solar-powered flashers at several schools, waterless urinals and water-conserving fixtures, irrigation conservation, hybrid vehicles, high-efficiency lighting, habitat restoration, polished concrete flooring and water re-use projects.
• Recycle and reuse polices have been expanded to include vehicle parts, upgrades to all District energy-management systems, energy- and water-efficient landscaping.
• Environmental studies programs have been created that include the molecular science behind environment issues for chemistry students and green alternatives to energy usage for physics students. There also are courses on the connections between living things and the environment and activities that protect the environment.
• The District has implemented energy conservation programs in schools that in the first year, 2008/09, resulted in an overall reduction of energy use by seven percent and a cost avoidance of $4.5-million.
• School campuses are being developed as environmental learning centers, supporting native habitat restorations, promoting butterfly, herb and vegetable gardens on school campuses and promoting irrigation efficiency and accountability.
• Measures are in place to recycle everything possible. During the 2008/09 school year, 1,848 tons of paper, cardboard, cans and beverage containers were recycled, generating a savings in waste hauling and landfill tipping fees of $802,620.
The Broward County Public Schools has an annual budget of more than $5 billion, supporting more than a quarter-million students, as well as 288 schools and education centers.
Environmental upgrades are done on budgetary schedule. When a vehicle is due to be replaced, it is
traded for one that runs more efficiently and pollutes less. When an old building is due for remodeling, insulation and lighting are replaced with more energy-efficient systems. When new buildings are designed, energy-saving technologies, including solar power, are incorporated. While the new technology might cost slightly more to acquire, the long-term savings are hundreds of times greater.
“We’re not only making a difference in Broward County, we’re having impacts wherever our students go after graduation,” Parks said. “Ingraining good environmental stewardship into the public school curriculum practically guarantees that the idea will spread.”
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