Dick Peach, president of Keep Evanston Beautiful, with the composter KEB donated to Dewey School

By Larry Gavin

School District 65 is moving ahead with efforts to increase recycling, to reduce energy consumption and to incorporate environmental sustainability into its curriculum. On June 15, the School Board extended the term of the District’s Ad Hoc Greening/Sustainability Committee for another year.

The Committee’s goals include: improve the air quality in the schools, reduce the consumption of energy, reduce the amount of solid waste, improve the impact of the District’s buildings on the immediate ecosystem, and set an example for students and community members.

“I feel like we’re just scratching the surface,” said Andy Pigozzi, chair of the Ad Hoc Green Committee. “We’re going to show some pretty amazing things around the corner.”

Among the projects accomplished in the last year are the following:

Recycling: The District has posted signs in classrooms, lunchrooms and offices to remind students and staff about the importance of recycling and what they can recycle;,and it has increased capacity to collect recyclable materials.

The District has purchased large recycling bins for the lunchrooms, and Keep Evanston Beautiful (KEB) has donated funds to cover the cost of additional recycling containers, said Mary Brown, chief financial officer. Waste hauler Groot has provided each school with a large recycling dumpster and weekly pickup, at no additional charge, so that additional materials may be recycled.

The District has also switched to using napkins made of recycled materials.

Buildings: The addition of a new library, a new main office and secure entryway at Dewey School was designed with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in mind, said Dr. Brown. In addition, the District is continuing to install energy efficient boilers, water heaters, and univents in the schools buildings, which will be controlled by an Energy Management System (EMS). The EMS will also manage the new air conditioning units installed in the auditoriums.

Replacing antiquated boilers and new water heaters will improve energy efficiency by about 13-15 percent, said the District in a prepared statement.

The District is also installing energy efficient windows at two schools, and installing bio-swales in one parking lot which will help naturally filter rainwater before it enters the sewer system.

Anti-Idling: The District is installing “anti-idling” signs at the schools to remind car and bus drivers to turn off their engines while waiting for children. This will help reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption.

Curriculum: The District has incorporated recycling/sustainability concepts throughout the K-5 science curriculum.

Energy Management: Lee Kulman, an energy management consultant to the District for the past 12 years, said the District has implemented many measures to manage and thereby reduce energy consumption.

Taking into account the addition of computers and other equipment, increased space at the new administration building, changes in weather and other variables, Mr. Kulman estimates that the District has saved about $2.8 million over the last 12 years with its energy conservation program and reduced its energy consumption by 276,596 million BTUs or the equivalent of 18,674 metric tons of CO2.

Sustainable Schools Compact: In January the District signed the Illinois Sustainable Schools Compact in which it has agreed to voluntarily achieve 12 goals listed in the compact by Dec. 31, 2010. The District has been working on many of the goals, but some interesting projects remain to be done.

As part of the compact, the District has committed to install a solar panel, wind turbines or geothermal units on school property; to convert a school rooftop to a green roof or a white reflective roof; to conserve soil and water resources by incorporating rain barrels, planting drought- resistant native species in landscaped areas, or retrofitting parking lots with permeable paving; and to create a rain garden.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...