BOSTON — State environmental officials today recognized students from 48 schools across Massachusetts for outstanding environmental actions as members of the Green Team, a statewide environmental education program sponsored by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
“The Healey-Driscoll Administration is implementing ambitious climate and environmental goals to help build a more sustainable future for the next generation. It is never too early to join with our students and educators to teach sustainability on our way to a healthier Massachusetts,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “I congratulate all of the Green Team teachers and students. They showed outstanding leadership and initiative during the past school year to raise environmental awareness and promote waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting in their schools, homes, and communities.”
Students of any age can participate in the Green Team program, an initiative composed of students that share the goals of reducing pollution and protecting the environment, with a focus on recycling, composting, and sustainability. 277 classes registered for the Green Team this school year, comprised of almost 60,000 students at 243 schools.
“Our administration is committed to reducing waste disposal by 30 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, and one way to meet those goals is to partner with our schools to show that small acts by students can produce amazing results for our communities and our environment,” said MassDEP Commissioner Bonnie Heiple. “These Green Team students exemplify what it means to be active and engaged residents by demonstrating to their fellow classmates, friends, and families that fun, easy, and practical activities can conserve water and energy, reduce waste, preserve natural resources, and protect the climate.”
Students took part in a range of activities, including:
Expanding school recycling programs,
Collecting textiles for donation and recycling,
Starting a compost pile using organic waste from the school cafeteria and using the compost it generates to nourish a garden to grow vegetables,
Rescuing unused or unwanted food and distributing to local food banks,
Planting trees and native wildflowers to attract pollinators and songbirds,
Repurposing and reusing materials to make “new” items,
Promoting water conservation,
Making their school driveways “Idle-Free Zones,”
Increasing energy efficiency in their schools and communities, and
Reducing their carbon footprint at school and at home.
These activities incorporated classroom disciplines from the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as reading, writing, art, and other non-classroom, interrelated projects.
Participating teachers received either a digital or hard-copy Green Team Kit containing classroom posters, lesson plans, recycling tips and access to a library of other resources. In addition, 30 schools received recycling and/or composting equipment from the Green Team to initiate or expand school recycling programs, and 15 schools received signs reading “Idle-Free Zone” from the Green Team that serve as a visual reminder to drivers to turn off their engines while waiting in the schoolyard.
Participating classes entered in a drawing for prizes, and 48 classes received prizes for their efforts. Three schools won grand prizes for going above and beyond in their efforts to promote sustainability and responsible citizenship in their communities and will be treated to a pizza party to celebrate their hard work and dedication. These include:
Amesbury Elementary School has been participating in the Green Team for several years. This year, third-grade volunteers implemented daily food rescue in the cafeteria. With the student council tracking data, they determined that they were saving up to 50 pounds of food daily, which they then distributed to a local food pantry. Not only does this program significantly reduce the school’s solid waste, but it provides healthy food to people in need and can inform future menu choices in the cafeteria.
East Elementary School in Hingham implemented a school-wide recycling program, enforced their idle-reduction policies, and focused much of their efforts on additional composting initiatives to reduce solid waste. They also promoted a “walk- or bike-to-school day” to show students how they can reduce their carbon footprint by walking or biking safely in their neighborhoods. Even students that live far away, were able to meet at a nearby library with their bike and still ride to school and take part in the event, which enhanced the excitement and camaraderie around the day.
HEC Academy in Northampton participated in the Green Team for the first time this year and utilized their new compost bin to improve the health of their school garden and reduce the use of other soil amending products. Students also volunteered monthly at the Village Closet in Huntington to collect and redistribute used clothing and textiles. This activity has supported economically fragile families while diverting hundreds of pounds of clothing from solid waste.