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The "Go Green Initiative" helps teachers, parents and kids green their campus

September 12th, 2008

By Kelly Rondeau

It’s back to the books for kids across America and going green in the classroom has never been so easy. With the help of a popular program called the Go Green Initiative, teachers have quick and simple access online to all the tools and resources needed to green a classroom, an entire school, or even a school-district.

Serving as the charter and flagship school for the Go Green Initiative, Walnut Grove Elementary School, in Pleasanton, Calif., first found out about the program in 2002 when Jill Buck, a mother of three, and PTA president, got creative and began asking “What else could we do to go green?”

“The school was doing some gardening, composting and recycling, but I wanted to do more, so I sat down at my kitchen table and started writing up the initiative,” said Ms. Buck (pictured left). “That was in 2002, and since then the program has just grown and grown: we’re now operating in all 50 states in the US, we’re in 13 countries, and on 4 continents; our website gets over 2 million hits a month; it’s an amazing program. Schools are finding us on the Internet and simply by word of mouth.”

Walnut Grove’s principal, Bill Radulovich, comments, “It all started here on my campus, as Jill (Buck) was my PTA president. As the charter school for this program, she first starting designing ideas to partner with waste management to help us with recycling waste, and that grew into networking and working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds that are distributed to different programs.

“Where once we had cardboard boxes to hold are recycling items, we now have huge 55-gallon gobblers, these huge barrels with slots that are really cool. She helped us gain more methods in the form of recycling and reusing and how to be more efficient overall.”

Those seemingly small first steps towards conservation have since grown to historic proportion: Walnut Grove partnered with Honeywell, with their alternative energy division, which installed, owns and maintains solar panels on seven district buildings in their school district, selling the electricity the panels produce to them at a price significantly below its current utility rate.

“Since we started using the solar energy, we have calculated that our district, which serves around 146,000 students, has saved over $150,000 annually. That’s just since starting in 2006, and that number was calculated in May of 2007. It’s truly fantastic what’s going on here in Pleasanton, and we have educators from around the world that are coming to see what it is we’re doing, to learn and see what is going on here. This is the first time a school has gone to this extent to save on energy,” Radulovich said.

The solar technology provided by Honeywell to the Pleasanton Unified School District, located just east of the Bay Area, is expected to supply 20 percent of the district’s electricity and save an estimated $2.5 million in energy costs over the course of their 20-year contract.

Buck, executive director of the initiative. urges school districts that aspire to similar feats to go to the Go Green Initiative website.

“We provide a template for anyone to use…We have everything: worksheet templates, press releases, guides to activities, and loads of information available to download and printout, pass out to parents, schools, whatever you need. And we’re available to assist you with any problems encountered on down the road, either by telephone or e-mail, we’re there to assist you with questions or anything along the way, we have many, many resources available to share,” she says.

GETTING STARTED, A CASE STUDY

On a smaller scale, Brentwood Elementary in Austin, Texas started their Go Green Initiative this year with special education teacher, Amy Cox (pictured), who teaches primarily 2nd and 3rd graders.

“In the beginning of 2007 I began asking why we weren’t doing more to be green at school, so I began searching on the Internet for ideas; that’s when I found out about the Go Green Initiative. I did it all online; I signed up for their newsletter and then found their resources and began doing the steps to incorporate the program at school. I printed out guidelines and every week they have a school of the week, which gives me great ideas continually on activities for the kids. Its been a good resource for me,” Cox explains.


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