Students Set Their Sights on Sustainability in the Green Schools Quest

Green Schools Quest

Story by Tricia Bisoux

Paper or plastic? Electric or solar? Gas-powered car or hybrid? Each day, we face a myriad of choices, from how we shop to how we power our homes to how we travel. Any one choice might seem of little consequence, but together they can add up to have considerable—and potentially negative—impact on the environment.

For the past five months, elementary, middle, and high school students throughout the St. Louis area and beyond have taken this idea to heart. As participants in the 2018–19 Green Schools Quest, they have been exploring choices that have neutral or positive impact on the environment. Now in its sixth year, this showcase of student-driven projects is coordinated by the U.S. Green Building Council–Missouri Gateway Chapter. This year’s Green Schools Quest started in October and runs through early March.

During this time, students and teachers at 59 schools set out to achieve a range of sustainability targets, all while working through several phases of discovery: Researching the problem. During the first one to two months of the challenge, students became young scientists and statisticians. Some conducted audits of their school’s waste, water use, and energy consumption. Others went outdoors to measure rainfall, visit local farms or recycling operations, or learn about the importance of pollinators to the world’s farmers.

Designing solutions. Next, students used their research to devise relevant solutions, such as creating recycling initiatives and composting programs or planning vegetable gardens and wildlife habitats.

Implementing their plans. With the help of their teachers and school districts, students calculated the impact of their efforts in real-world terms. Some teams measured how many pounds of waste their plans will divert from landfills; others, how much water their rain barrels collect. Still others were inspired by the optional theme of this year’s Green Schools Quest, energy conservation, to explore the impact of installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs and unplugging electronic devices when not in use.

Educating their communities. From their initial research to project implementation, students also have worked to make sustainable behaviors easier and more accessible to all, creating educational materials and delivering presentations to inform classmates, family members, and others about the importance of sustainable behaviors. Such efforts amplify the Green Schools Quest’s impact many times over.
From kindergarteners to high school seniors, each year’s Green Schools Quest participants become some of our region’s best champions for sustainability. Their work reminds us that we all can make choices that have a positive impact on our region—and on our planet.

The public is invited to attend the USGBC-MGC’s 12th Annual Green Schools Event to learn more about the work of these students! Student projects will be showcased and winners announced on April 3 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.

In addition, attendees will be invited to cast votes for the 2019–20 Green Schools Quest Focus of the Year. The three themes up for vote are health and wellness, water, and environmental justice.

For more information please visit www.usgbc-mogateway.org/green-school-quest. Visit our booth at the Healthy Planet Expo March 31.