November 15th, 2012 by

Two recent initiatives have made an investment in the future of sustainability. A boost for the GreenSchools! program and a new website facilitating campus farming have both targeted students in an effort to change the way we interact with the environment.

Lake Tahoe magnet school students plant seedlings with USFS

Lake Tahoe magnet school students plant seedlings with USFS. Credit: USFS Region 5/Flickr

Project Learning Tree’s GreenSchools! creates an educational system that is as sustainable as their environmental work. By providing training sessions to teachers, students, and other faculty members, schools have the opportunity to become self-sufficient in promoting healthier habits. And getting involved is not just about becoming an environmentalist. The program also aims to save money while improving student’s performance in the sciences, math, critical thinking, and leadership.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has partnered with the GreenSchools! program for years. But recently, USFS stepped up their support with a $10,000 grant to eight different schools in seven states. Schools were asked to write proposals explaining how they would make use of their grant money.

GreenSchools! initiatives are designed for an area’s specific needs and can range from turning off lights and unplugging appliances to starting a recycling or composting program. The Willow School in Gladstone, N.J., for example, has taken a special interest in water conservation. Students and faculty use collected rainwater to flush all toilets and native trees and plants to reduce runoff. The Forest Service grant and continued partnership have supported and expanded upon these efforts. The newly developed Green Academy, based out of a California high school, is partnering with regional USFS offices for training sessions. Their goals align perfectly with those of GreenSchools! as students are prepared for careers such as environmental scientists, wildlife managers, and solar or wind engineers.

School gardens and student farming have also become a primary focus of GreenSchools!. Students have taken an interest in learning about healthy eating and maintaining gardens at school. And apparently, farming at school is not just for the little kids. Duke University senior Emily McGinty has made campus farming a priority.

University of Washington campus farm

University of Washington campus farm. Credit: Khamis Hammoutdeh/Flickr

McGinty’s vision began as a class project, but she has seen it grow into a student-run farm on Duke’s campus. The hypothetical assignment is now providing bulk produce for campus dining halls. This has largely been facilitated by the Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO), which promotes locally grown food and sustainable practices. One of BAMCO’s latest efforts has created a network for campus farms across the country.

Their website, Campus Farmers, was made possible by a partnership with Kitchen Gardeners International. There are currently more than 30 schools represented on the site as they are “dedicated to helping college students start farms and gardens on their campuses, whether you’re still in the dreaming stage or about to harvest your first crops.” Campus Farmers not only provides tips and resources for those looking to follow in McGinty’s footsteps, but offers students a space to share pictures, stories, and even internship listings.