Green Initiatives Gain Momentum in Schools

Apr 25, 2012

Rosa Parks Elementary School in Lexington was one of three Kentucky schools awarded the federal Green Ribbon designation for its work on sustainability issues this week. But a trend toward environmental awareness is gathering momentum in schools across the county. When it comes to green issues, Rosa Parks Elementary is leading the way. Tresine Logsdon, Energy and Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools, says earning a green ribbon takes a multifaceted approach.

"You have to demonstrate that sustainability is an integral part of the curriculum, in addition to just how the school operates," she says.

That means getting kids involved in both classroom activities and running the classroom itself. Rosa Parks principal Leslie Thomas says allowing students to take charge has yielded big dividends. What began as a student-led recycling program has grown into a school culture where even the teachers and staff are held accountable by students whenever they leave the lights on in an empty room.

"They even have pre-printed Post-It notes that they go around and they get to give us a grade on how well we're doing," Thomas says.

Thanks mostly to changes in behavior, the school saved an impressive 52-thousand dollars in electric and utility bills over the course of a year. It’s this broader approach Logsdon hopes will not only cultivate good habits, but prepare students with an interest in careers related to sustainability for jobs in those fields. A pilot program in Fayette County this year introduced students to the designers responsible for school construction and renovation.

"We invite the architects and engineers of those renovations and designs to come in and meet with the students and the teachers and talk about what it means to be an engineer and architect and what a large role sustainability plays," she says.

Two other Kentucky schools, Georgetown Middle School and Richardsville Elementary, also received green ribbons this year.