Article from Jessica Reeder at Black Rock Solar

GREENevada Awards $28,000 to Local High Schools for Sustainability Improvements

May 3rd, 2011 | Published in News

by Jessica Reeder

Reed High Eco Warriors won first place and $12,000 to make their sustainability dreams for their school a reality.

On Earth Day 2011, Washoe County high school students shared their biggest green ideas and won thousands of dollars to help make those ideas become reality. The GREENevada Sustainability Plan competition was funded in part by a $50,000 grant from Pepsi REFRESH. Last week $28,000 was awarded to nine participating Washoe County high schools whose student teams came up with their own plans to make their schools more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Each team submitted a written proposal and budget, and made a visual presentation in front of a panel of expert judges.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval congratulated all the schools for participating in this competition.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval stopped by to praise students for their hard work. “As the governor, renewable energy is very important to me. We just signed a contract to have every state building studied for the possibility of installing solar, so I think that’s a great opportunity for the state… I want to congratulate all the schools that have been involved in this competition. What you’re doing, I think that it’s very important. What you’re offering is something that becomes a part of the culture in the state of Nevada.”

The Grand Prize winner was Reed High School. Reed students plan to upgrade the school’s bathrooms, cutting back on wasted water and energy, and potentially saving their school thousands in utility bills. They walked away with $12,000 to make it happen.

Reed high school students were all smiles on Earth Day 2011.

“We put in everything. We dedicated all our time to it. We really worked,” said Reed High senior Hector Tinajero. The whole school supported the “Eco Warriors” in their campaign for change. “We have morning announcements,” Tinajero said. “Everybody loves the little jokes and stuff. They’re really for it.” The club’s membership rose, even as students worked through their lunch periods, after school and on Saturday mornings. Tinajero said his team was deeply inspired by a presentation from the Alliance for Climate Education, and that they owed their success to advisors Leigh Metcalfe and Genevieve Morehouse.

Rainshadow Community School presented a winning plan that included planting fruit trees on school property.

Reed wasn’t the only school with big ideas. Rainshadow Community Charter School won second place with their plan to install fruit trees, a rooftop greenhouse and an aquaponic pond on school grounds. Rainshadow students plan to reopen their campus pizza parlor, which sells handmade pizza made with local and organic ingredients. They won $7,000 to get their dream of a self-sufficient campus off the ground. Most of the Rainshadow team are graduating seniors, but the project will continue under the leadership of advisor Joe Ferguson.

Hug High students won third place. They propose recycling the plastics at their school lunch.

Hug High School took third place. Hug students calculated that their cafeteria hands out 600 Styrofoam cups every day, or 720 lbs. of Styrofoam each year. Styrofoam may contain hormone disrupters that can harm young people’s health, and it does not degrade in landfills. However, switching to an eco-friendly alternative would be too costly, and Hug’s cafeteria doesn’t have the capacity to wash reusable cups. While ditching Styrofoam may not yet be possible for Hug High, the team plans to use its $3,000 prize to encourage awareness, increase recycling and reduce the school’s garbage output by 25 percent.

Fourth place was an even tie between:

§ The Academy for Arts, Careers and Technology (AACT)

§ Sage Ridge

§ The Davidson Academy

§ McQueen High School

§ Sparks High School

§ Wooster High School.

Sparks High students developed a presentation on recycling that they can use with middle school and elementary students.

Each team won $1,000 for their creative and ambitious projects, which ranged from pedal-powered computer charging stations to student-run composting programs and implementing a school-wide value pillar for environmental stewardship. Sparks High even came up with a presentation on recycling, which they can perform at middle and elementary schools to help spread awareness.

Sage Ridge high students have built a garden that 4th and 5th graders can use.

Sage Ridge’s environmental campaign first gained momentum last year, when students formed an Environmental Policy class and mapped out goals and objectives to green their campus. This small school with less than 400 students managed to install a workable garden, get 5th and 6th graders to run recycling and composting programs, convince staff to clean lunch tables with vinegar instead of chemicals, and reduce the school’s carbon footprint by 7 tons of CO2 in the past year.

McQueen High developed the slogan “Go Green for McQueen” to develop environmental awareness. Their program director even dyed his beard in support of the group.

McQueen’s Environmental Coalition is working hard to get students to “Go Green for McQueen.” They make and sell T-shirts and bracelets to help raise awareness, and it works. “The first year, [students] don’t really pay attention,” Treasurer Brian Goga said. “But then as they move higher up in the school, they start getting more involved.” This year’s AP Environmental class had 40 members at one point.

Each team had teacher and parent advisors who helped them refine their plans, prepare their presentations and work up their budget proposals. Advisors were also their teams’ biggest supporters: McQueen advisor Michael McMurray even went so far as to dye his beard green in a show of solidarity. GREENevada presented each advisor with a thank-you gift for all the unpaid hours and moral support they’d given to help their student teams design a better future.

The AACT High School Team with John Hargrove of NV Energy.

John Hargrove is the Renewable Generations program manager for NV Energy, but he’s also a proud dad to Jason Hargrove of AACT. “I can’t wait to watch these presentations,” he said. “As much fun as these kids at my son’s school had, and as big as their ideas got so quickly, this room is full of that… This presentation today is just the start. They’re creating programs that are going to stay running forever.”

Wooster High students proposed an effiency competition between teachers and students.

One of the most inspiring ideas of the day came from the Wooster High team, who suggested having teachers and students compete for the biggest reduction in energy use. For many of these teams, the challenge isn’t just to change their surroundings, but to influence their peers. How can young people spread their enthusiasm for environmental change to new hearts and minds? GREENevada is helping provide new ways for students to affect real change.

GREENevada is a collaboration between the Alliance for Climate Education, Black Rock Solar, Envirolution, GreenPower, Sierra Nevada Journeys, and Urban Roots Garden Classrooms.

Photos by Cindie Geddes and Jessica Reeder.


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