Westminster Environmental Campus Organization Lexus Presentation, Fall 2011 Land and Water
Part 1: What's the Problem? While we tried to narrow down what issue we wanted to focus on, we realized that the largest issue was the lack of education about environmental issues on campus. For instance, even after Westminster has been on a single-stream recycling system for several years, students didn't know what could be recycled on campus, and many recyclables were being thrown away. We decided to focus on several projects that would make the students more aware of the environmental issues and how our organization ECO (Environmental Campus Organization) is working to make Westminster more sustainable.
Part 2: Plan to address the problem Our goal was to educate students both about the importance of conservation as well as ways they can make a difference daily at school and at home. We chose to focus on specific ways students can conserve daily at school such as eating less meat and more vegetables grown in our on-campus garden at lunch, using less paper in the classroom and recycling paper that is used, and using fewer paper towels and less water in the restroom. We also expanded our education to students' homesby integrating the City of Atlanta's Greening Neighborhoods Energy Olympics into our school's curriculum. By sending out weekly tips on how to conserve in the home, we encouraged students not only to monitor their electricity, gas, and water usage, but to decrease it.
Part 3: Implementing Our Ideas • Showing the community the benefits of Meatless Monday that Westminster instituted last year • Partnership with gardening club “DirtCats” who provide opportunities to work in the organic garden • Low-flush toilets • Adding "These Come From Trees" stickers to paper towel dispensers • Holding four days of Earth Week activities in April • Adding more recycling bins and signs at football games • Organizing and running a sustainability in the home survey called “Greening Neighborhoods Energy Olympics” (GNEO) • Making recycling more fun through games and fun bins • All ECO signs made for these purposes are made out of reused poster board from old student projects.
Meatless Monday Education • In the fall of 2011, Westminster implemented the Meatless Monday program, a world wide initiative to eliminate meat from our diet on Mondays. • Due to negative response to the removal of meat from the lunch room on Mondays, ECO decided to educate the students and faculty on the environmental benefits of going meatless, if only for one meal a week. • We put up signs, and will be speaking to the entire high school at an assembly in early November. • We made signs with facts about eating a meatless meal once a week, like, “if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” (Source: Environmental Defense)
Dual-Flush Toilets • The biggest everyday effort towards saving water on campus is seen through dual flush toilets installed earlier this year. • Signs in each stall explain how to use them. • They bring down water usage from 3.5 gallons per flush for regular toilets to 1.6 for solids and 1.1 for liquids, saving thousands of gallons of water per year.
Recycling Initiatives/Education • At Westminster football games, we noticed the failure of fans to recycle. Seeing as Friday Night Football is the most attended event on campus all year, we thought it would be a good opportunity to educate the entire community and even the visiting team’s school. • We spoke with the administration and managed to get a recycling bin put next to every trash can in the stadium. • We made signs reminding fans what is permissible to recycle, hoping to reduce the waste of plastics and cans. • For school-wide pep rallies, we are planning on having a recycling basketball game (come basketball season in winter) where contestants throw pieces of waste into the right bin: trash or recycling. • To make recycling more fun, we added hand-drawn teeth and eyes to the bins that had tops (so as to make them look like cute monsters that eat recyclables!)
Elementary School Education • In our difficulties integrating more environmental education into the high school curriculum at Westminster, we instead turned to adding environmental awareness to the elementary school's education instead. • We taught classes about the basics of the three R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) and about the efforts Westminster and ECO are making to be more sustainable to the 5th grade science classes. • We worked with the 3rd grade English teachers to do a grade-wide project in which the students learned how to write "persuasive letters" by writing to politicians and business executives about environmental problems. ECO members came to brainstorm with the students and discuss the environmental problems of which corporations and the Georgia government needed to be aware.
"These Come from Trees" stickers • The company that created these stickers to be put on paper towel dispensers created an education challenge with the purpose of providing informational stickers for interested schools. • Because ECO students figured out how many stickers were needed and received the permission from a school administrator, ECO was sent the stickers for free. • ECO has put the stickers on the paper towel dispensers throughout campus. These stickers have been a tremendous factor in the reduction of paper usage at Westminster simply by being a reminder of where our paper comes from. • A single sticker has the ability to save around one hundred pounds of paper a year per dispenser.
GNEO: Greening Neighborhoods Energy Olympics • To increase Westminster students' environmental awareness away from school, ECO has encouraged students to participate in GNEO. • The purpose of this program is for students to keep track of their energy, water, and gas bills over a six-month period in order to see how changes that they make to their home can change the amount of energy used, and therefore money spent each month. • In order to make sure a good percentage of students are participating, ECO has added GNEO to the AP Environmental Science curriculum as a requirement for the course. • Westminster's AP E.S. students have increased awareness in their use of limited resources, and while we don't have any results yet, students will consistently survey their consumption to track improvements.
Westminster’s Organic Garden • ECO has partnered with the Garden Club “DirtCats” and has held several gardening workdays. • Water is conserved in the garden through use of rain barrels (made out of reused Coca Cola syrup drums and decorated by AP Art students!). • Crops are added to Westminster’s dining hall to replace as much inorganic produce as possible.
Earth Week 2011 • Given that Earth Day 2011 was on a day when we did not have school, we seized the opportunity to educate students about environmentalism by expanding the usual daily celebration to fit our entire school week. • We provided daily announcements to the school with the day’s event and a sustainability “fun fact” and had a schedule posted on the Westminster website. • Monday: ECO helped students in the Elementary School paint paper grocery bags reminding users to recycle; these bags (500 in total) were sent to the local Publix Supermarket for distribution to remind local shoppers about Earth Week • Tuesday: ECO hosted a local farmer and Westminster alumna who spoke and then worked with us in the organic garden • Wednesday: No-Plastic-Water-Bottle Day! We asked students to only bring reusable bottles to school and showed a documentary about bottled water called Flow • Thursday: ECO hosted our Carpool-to-School Day, as we do once each semester.
Successes and Challenges • We found that it was harder to educate high school students than elementary school students, who were more receptive to the cause. • By creating a public wiki for ECO, we found a way not only to organize our efforts but to show the whole Westminster community what we were working on. The wiki address is: http://westminstereco.wikispaces.com/ • We saw that the best way to get students to notice sustainability issues that we were trying to fix was to make conservation fun, like in our pep rally games. • In years past, only members of ECO had come to Earth Day activities, but when we extended it to Earth Week this year, many more students attended.
Results • Results regarding our project in sustainability education were hard to measure quantifiably, but we know the following: • The These Come From Trees Stickers have saved at least 2000 pounds of paper over the time they’ve been in use at Westminster • About 50 non-ECO students participated in Earth Week activities • About 40 students will take monthly surveys for the Greening Neighborhoods initiative over this year and find ways to make their homes more sustainable. • The 3rd and 5th grade classes (about 200 students) have done an interactive sustainability talk with ECO members worked with them to write persuasive letters on environmental issues • Thousands of fans will see the recycling bins and signs at the football stadium on Friday nights throughout the season and be reminded to recycle their concession stand packaging.
A Learning Experience • ECO team members who worked on these initiatives learned that not everyone would be receptive to a message about the environment, and so subsequently learned how to cater the message to appeal to a broad audience, as well as make being “green” fun. • We learned how to communicate with administrators to arrange events and receive permission for projects.