$17,000 Awarded to Northern Nevada’s Greenest High Schoolers

Better late than never! Here’s a recap of the GREENevada Student Sustainability Summit on Earth Day 2012.


Earth Day weekend was an exciting time for students from 11 Northern Nevada high schools, who took home a combined $17,000 in prize money for their sustainability efforts.

The GREENevada Student Sustainability Summit, now in its second year, took place last Friday. Once again, student teams presented wide-reaching proposals to improve sustainability practices on their campuses.

The Hug High School team took home $5,000 for their energy efficiency plan.

The winning team, from Hug High School, spent months doing an energy audit, interviewing faculty and staff, and calculating potential savings from changed practices. In the course of the students’ audit, they stumbled upon a surprising source of wasted energy: Classroom lights at Hug were being left on for several hours after teachers and students had gone. Meeting with the custodial staff, they discovered that the lights were being used as a record-keeping system to mark which rooms had been cleaned. The audit also revealed that teachers and staff were leaving computers and appliances turned on all day and night, instead of shutting them off.

Simply by working with the staff to design a new system, Hug team members found they could save the school over $11,000 per year in electricity costs. By adding energy-saving power strips, motion sensing lights and an education program for faculty and staff, the Hug team projected a $15,500 annual savings for a cost of under $6,000.

Student proposals ranged from on-campus organic gardens to improved recycling efforts, with runner-up Reed High taking home $3,500 with their plan to eliminate single-use water bottles on campus. Each team received prize money to make their plans a reality.

TMCC High School students dressed themselves in garbage to highlight their campus litter problems.

“You’re the leaders, and we’re really glad you’re here,” Marnee Benson, Deputy Director of Black Rock Solar and MC of the event, told the students. “You’re going to help the world solve some of its biggest environmental problems.” Nevada assemblyman David Bobzien also addressed the students, calling their work “remarkable” and congratulating them for being at the forefront of STEM education in Nevada.

“The kids here are great,” said Erich Smitt, Sims Recycling Solutions Regional Sales Executive and judge for the event. “They did a lot of research, a lot of work on these projects. Obviously their biggest challenge is going to be getting the word out to the rest of the students.”

“We put a lot of time and effort into our work,” said Bishop Manogue environmental advisor Branson Barr. “But we’re also trying to bring more students into the fold. There are so many other clubs at Bishop Manogue… environmental issues tend to get overlooked.”

Indeed, the Student Sustainability Summit represents a chance for environmentally-motivated students to meet their peers, talk with local leaders and learn more about how they can continue working for sustainable change.

Sonya Hem Giroux, Operations Director of the Nevada Land Conservancy, joined the panel of expert judges.

Sarah Sciarani Polito, Public Affairs representative from Waste Management, spoke to the students about the single-stream recycling service available to every school in the district. She was surprised to learn that many schools are not fully aware of how to use the service effectively. “Some [conservation] comes from an operations standpoint … but it really comes down to the students,” said Charlie Hoppe, Director of Facilities Management for the Washoe County School District. Tellingly, nearly every student proposal involved an education campaign to make the student body aware of how their actions affect the environment and their schools’ bottom line.

Thanks to a conflict with a swim meet, Sage Ridge School was only able to send one team member. He represented his team with a great presentation.

“Being part of the Environmental Club has really affected my view on the environment,” said Sergio Galvan, Wooster High student. “Now I realize that it’s a lot more serious than I thought it was.” Wooster’s plan to reduce waste by improving the school’s recycling bin system took them dumpster diving to find out what was being thrown away.

Each student team was accompanied by a teacher advisor who helped students form their goals, put together actionable proposals and calculate realistic budget requirements. “Our club formed through the efforts of our two advisors collaborating to bring us together,” said Spanish Springs student Roman Hartze. The teachers brought their students to GREENevada’s initial training conference to get them started. “That really inspired us to take action,” Hartze said. “From there, it was just a matter of recruiting members.” Spanish Springs came up with a plan to xeriscape their school with native, drought-resistant plants.

GREENevada is a coalition of Nevada nonprofits committed to bringing sustainability awareness into the school system, including the Alliance for Climate Education, Black Rock Solar, Envirolution, GreenPower, Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, Sierra Nevada Journeys, and Urban Roots Garden Classrooms. Throughout the year, these organizations reach out to local schools, offering educational and sustainable opportunities for students and staff. The Student Sustainability Summit is the culmination of all these efforts, and a collaborative effort between the organizations.

GREENevada leaders, clockwise from top: David Gibson of Envirolution; Morgan Tiar of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful; Rebecca Anderson of ACE; Josie Luciano of Urban Roots; Joanna Furgiuele of Sierra Nevada Journeys; Marnee Benson of Black Rock Solar.

The Summit also owes its success to its sponsors, which provide the prize money. Black Rock Solar contributed $10,000 for this event; Waste Management donated $5,000. Peppermill Resort Casino and Sims Recycling Solutions each offered $1,000. Waste Management, Peppermill and Sims Recycling also each sent a judge to help pick the winning team.

The judging panel was comprised of local leaders in many fields:

  • Dave Aiazzi, Reno City Council Member
  • Katy Chandler-Isackson, Co-founder, Be The Change Project
  • Bruce Deetken, CEM, CBCP, Mechanical Designer, Sustainable Energy Solutions
  • Sonya Hem Giroux, Operations Director, Nevada Land Conservancy
  • Charlie Hoppe, WCSD Director of Facilities Management
  • Jen Huntley, Environmental Historian and greenUP! Director
  • Dean Parker, Peppermill Executive Facilities Director
  • John Sagebiel PhD, UNR Environmental Affairs Manager
  • Erich Schmitt, Regional Sales Executive, Sims Recycling Solutions
  • Sarah Sciarani Polito, Public Affairs, Waste Management
  • Matthew Tuma, Regional Representative for Senator Harry Reid

GREENevada is proud of all the participating schools. Here are the official results and winnings for the 2012 Student Sustainability Summit:

WINNER – $5,000
Hug High School

RUNNER-UP – $3,500
Reed High School

Davidson Academy

Sage Ridge School
TMCC High School
Wooster High School

Rainshadow Community Charter High School
Sparks High School

Bishop Manogue Catholic High School
North Valleys High School
Pyramid Lake Jr/Sr High School
Spanish Springs High School


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