The Ad Hoc Green Committee concluded in a report presented to the District 65 School Board on June 9, that there are many good environmental efforts underway in the District, but the Committee identified many ways the District could improve recycling, reduce energy, and make conservation a way of life in the District.
Many of the proposed changes are “low hanging fruit” and can be implemented immediately by changing habits, said Katie Bailey, a member of both the School Board and the Committee. Other proposals “are put on the table to look at, and may take 10 to 20 years to implement,” said Dick Peach, a Committee member and president of Keep Evanston Beautiful (KEB).
The Ad Hoc Green Committee was established by the Board last July to develop a comprehensive environmental policy for the District. The Committee is composed of one School Board member, administrators, teachers and parents.
While the Solid Waste Agency of Cook County called District 65 a leader in its solid waste management program, the Committee concluded “our most immediate impact can come from improving our recycling/solid waste management.”
The Committee’s main recycling concerns focused on the lunchroom. The Committee found there was very little or no recycling of the cardboard boxes used to deliver lunches to the schools; there were few recycling bins in the lunch rooms; and the District used polystyrene lunch trays – 500,000 per year – that are not recycled and do not degrade in a landfill for hundreds of years.
The report recommends that large recycling bins be placed in the lunch rooms, a recommendation that is already being implemented. The Committee also recommended switching the lunch trays to bio-degradable trays, a recommendation that may need to be evaluated by the Board’s policy and finance committees because of the additional cost. A long-term goal is to establish an in-vessel composting program.
Numerous other recommendations are made. On a big picture basis, the report says the goal is to “transition from simply recycling” to reducing consumption, reusing products and recycling.
Ms. Bailey said District 65’s part-time energy manager, Lee Kulman, has implemented changes beginning in 1996-1997 school year that have kept the District’s energy use at approximately the same level as it was ten years ago. Some of the practices include installing timers for flushing urinals, which has reduced water use by about 20 percent in the last few years; water faucets are on timers; motion sensors are installed in many rooms to turn off lights when no one is in the room; lighting has been changed from T-12 to T-8 bulbs.
The report identified some areas for improvement such as turning off computers when not in use and unplugging secondary power transformers for computers and other devices at night. The report recommends the District, “Set a policy of zero increase in energy consumption.” Some long-term proposals include expanding the use of rooftop solar panels and considering the possibility of geothermal heating.
The report recognizes that idling engines waste gas and pollute the air. While recognizing that the District’s school bus company has an anti-idling policy for drivers, the Committee found that many buses still idle while waiting to pick up a child. The report recommends that the District establish an anti-idling policy, and that parents be encouraged to turn off their cars while waiting to pick up their children.
Other recommendations include creating summer garden programs, using rain barrels, and setting a goal to have all buildings LEED-EB certified. LEED for existing buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades.
Leadership and Other Issues
The report recommends that the Board adopt a vision statement and policies which support conservation and which support teaching students about conservation. Pointing to the success of the part-time energy manager, the Committee recommends that someone at the administrative level take responsibility for other environmental issues, especially solid waste management.
Board member Keith Terry raised the question about cost, saying, “We have a finite number of dollars.”
Mr. Peach responded, “The bulk of the recommendations are free, no cost. Other things are put on the table to look at. It may take 10 to 20 years to implement them.” He added that grants may be available to implement some of the changes.
Board member Andy Pigozzi said, “Some things have huge up-front costs, such as thermal heating, but they generate cost savings over a period of time.” He said in evaluating costs and environmental benefits, everything needs to be taken into account.
Ms. Bailey suggested that the report be put on the agenda for the Board’s next meeting, at which time the Board would be asked to accept the report and to extend the Committee’s term for another year so it could ensure that changes capable of being implemented immediately are made. She said many of the Committee’s recommendations will need to be reviewed by the Board’s policy and finance committees before going to the Board for approval.