The U.S. Green Building Council’s Louisiana Chapter kicked off the 2014 Green Schools Challenge, a program that encourages students across the state to develop sustainability projects for their schools in the name of friendly competition. About 40 people gathered - USGBC Louisiana staff and volunteers, students and public - at a press conference Monday to officially launch this year’s program and honor last year’s second place winner, the New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School (Sci High).
“We wrote letters to our principals saying that we were concerned about the school’s bad habits,” said senior Celeste Cuellar. “We didn’t like that we were using the Styrofoam in the cafeteria, and we needed to go on a greener path. They listened to us.”
Sci High was one of the 40 schools involved in the Challenge last year, turning their Styrofoam problem into a project. With the help of their teacher, Jason Denlinger, and Facilities Manager Anthony Crim, the “Venture Crew” wrote a grant for a dishwasher, purchased reusable dishware, and reduced the kitchen waste by 60 percent. They otherwise encouraged their fellow students to recycle and reuse, and their accomplishments earned them second place in the statewide competition, as well as a $1,000 check for their school. “Our mentor, Liz Shephard of LifeCity, guided us – she came every month and said that our goal should be zero waste,” Crim said. “The kids saw that we cared… They showed us that turning on the solar system, putting [waste] in the right place, and turning out the lights actually makes a difference.”
The Green Schools Challenge engaged 7,000 students in 13 parishes around the state, said Chapter Coordinator Jolie Lemoine. Schools took on projects to do energy audits and water conservation plans (11); recycling and composting programs (15); school gardens (11); and raingardens and outdoor classrooms (12). They raised the funds for the projects and worked with local businesses that could help them fulfill their goals.
“Participating schools are connected with local green professionals from their community,” Lemoine said, referring to the 37 mentors who came from a variety of sustainability professions and donated their time to assist the students in their endeavors. Christine Jordan, Entergy’s head of Corporate Social Responsibility, announced at the event that the utility will be supporting the Challenge again in its second year, with a $13,000 contribution. In partnership with USGBC Louisiana, Entergy also supplied the solar panels on the school’s roof as part of the New Orleans Solar Schools Initiative (NOSSI) that supplied systems for five (5) schools in 2009.
USGBC Louisiana is seeking schools interested in participating and mentors to assist with the Challenge. Mentors should bring some expertise in an environmental or sustainability field, and the ability to contribute volunteer time to the project. Mentors will be paired with schools that are interested in projects that relate to the mentors’ expertise.
For more information visit the Green Schools Challenge page on the Chapter’s website: www.usgbclouisiana.org. Deadline for Schools and Mentors to register is Friday, September 12.
The US Green Building Council, Louisiana Chapter (USGBC Louisiana) is a 501 (c)(3) organization, whose mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, to be more energy efficient and cost effective. We create healthier places to live, work, and learn through education, advocacy, and community outreach.