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Culver City schools honored for green program

CULVER CITY — The U.S. Department of Education has announced that Culver City Unified School District is one of only nine districts across the country to be honored among the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardees.

Culver City was nominated by the California Department of Education for its extensive efforts in not only teaching environmental sustainability, but also walking the walk to make the district itself more sustainable.

“This is an incredible achievement that speaks to our on-going commitment to make our campuses a national leader in the effort to create more sustainable schools and more environmentally aware students,” district Superintendent Josh Arnold said. “[The district] takes pride in the continual improvements that are being made to reduce the district’s environmental impacts; improve the health and well-being of students, staff and the community; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.”

The recognition rewards schools and districts that demonstrate achievement in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and providing effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, civic skills and green career pathways.

“[The district] is working hard to foster a culture of sustainability,” said school board member Kelly Kent. “When people come to [our] campuses and see our solar PV arrays, award-winning custom designed sorting stations, Green5 banners and posters, they know the district embraces the responsibility to create a more sustainable world.”

In 2010, the school board created the Environmental Sustainability Committee to help the district become more environmentally and fiscally sustainable. The committee includes parent volunteers with experience in sustainability and a passion to help the district.

In 2011, the committee ordered a third-party baseline energy audit of school facilities, created a sustainability master plan for the school board and began working on bringing a 750-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to the district’s main campus — where Culver City High, Culver City Middle School and an elementary school are all located

As of February 2014, the solar panels accounted for approximately 50 percent of the energy needs of the main campus and 25 percent of the entire district, delivering over $400,000 back into the district’s general fund each year over the life of the system and avoiding approximately 2,326 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The district also retrofitted all lights with light-emitting diodes lighting and all toilets and urinals with low-flow fixtures. The district achieved a 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 percent reduction in water use in just three years.

During the 2011–12 school year, the ESC launched the Green5 co-curricular sustainability education program to increase awareness among students and staff about recycling; reducing waste, energy use and water consumption; reusing 28 materials; engaging in active transportation; and rethinking local solutions to global problems.

The Green5, also known as the “Five Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Ride and Rethink), was piloted at Linwood E. Howe Elementary School and included recycling audits, surveys, a campus-wide recycling program, signage and other messaging and the establishment of a student leadership program.

The post-audit findings showed recycling rates increased by 500 percent and sustainability awareness among the students and staff also increased substantially.

Since 2014, the amount of materials being sent to landfills by the district has been reduced by more than 50 percent, for a district-wide diversion rate exceeding 80 percent. District-wide, an estimated 29 tons of mixed recycling is diverted from the landfill each year, which is the equivalent of 100 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided, while 935 tons of compostable food waste is diverted from the landfill each school year, which is the equivalent of 823.5 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.

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