The Path to Sustainability: 2017-2018 Green Schools Quest Comes to An End but the Work Continues

By Shawn Fluckey, USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter Intern

The U.S. Green Building Council – Missouri Gateway Chapter’s 2016-17 Green Schools Quest ended last month. This year-long challenge targets elementary, middle, and high schools within the Chapter’s territory, which includes the state of Missouri and parts of southern Illinois. The Green Schools Quest challenges each school to devise and implement the most creative, effective, and no- to low-cost sustainable practices not only on school grounds but also in surrounding communities.

Of the 47 schools that participated this year, 37 submitted final reports and presentations for review by an impartial panel of judges who chose winners in all three school categories. The submitted projects were highly diverse, and the chosen schools in each category included public, independent, parochial, county, rural, and urban schools. Some projects were large in scope; others were smaller in scope. To highlight a few:
Kirkwood HS grew plants hydroponically, grew algae for biofuel, and created a vermicomposting system to reduce waste. Armed with weather sealant, students at Jennings HS sealed their school’s old, drafty windows. Rogers Middle School established a pollinator garden. The Forsyth School focused on water conservation. Students at Westchester Elementary converted an underused shed into a chicken coop and now take care of 15 chickens living at their school. Sunrise R-IX Elementary discarded one too many milk cartons and found ways to reuse them, for example as a bug hotel for their school’s garden or as planters to grow food. The Principia Upper School created an Instagram to showcase students who produced no food waste at the end of their meals.

As these projects demonstrate, the path towards becoming more sustainable is not set in stone. Some paths lead in one direction; others lead in a completely different direction. But all paths have a beginning; they all started somewhere. Being sustainable does not mean doing very specific things. Every situation is different. No matter where your school, home, or life currently stands in regards to sustainability, you can make a difference by following some simple steps:

  • Identify the problem or issue you wish to change, taking into account your unique needs, desires, and resources. Find a way to measure (e.g. benchmarking) the problem or issue.
  • Think about ways to address the problem or issue. Get as much input and feedback as possible.
  • Write out a plan to address the issue. Set specific milestones that you think you could reach. Writing out a plan is a good first step towards becoming more sustainable.
  • Put your plan in motion, and measure your progress by the completion of those milestones.
  • In choosing to become more sustainable, you do not have to implement a large change in how you live or how your school operates. Sometimes, as the above projects demonstrate, the smallest actions can make the biggest differences in regards to sustainability.

To learn more about how you can participate in the 2017-2018 Green Schools Quest and move forward along the path to sustainability, please visit www.usgbc-mogateway.org/green-school-quest.