District 65 Green Teams (GT) is a collective of parents and staff from D65 schools that seeks to create healthier and more environmentally sustainable school communities through education, awareness, and action. Our ultimate goal is to foster the next generation of environmental stewards, while enacting lasting sustainable change in the School District.

We aim to achieve these goals by supporting District 65 staff and all those championing sustainability efforts in the schools. We share resources and serve as a clearing house to facilitate these endeavors. Additionally, we aim to collaborate with District 65 leadership in creating centralized initiatives working with all District departments. Through these efforts and the push of Evanston citizens, we hope, environmental sustainability will become an integral part of District 65 culture.

This space in the RoundTable provides an exciting opportunity to show our community what the schools, students and Green Teams are doing to align ourselves with Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) and we hope to use this channel of communication to expand the environmental discussion relating the urgency echoed by scientists globally of the Climate Crisis. We need to give students an equitable chance at environmental education, activism, and green jobs training.

Over the past year, D65 GT have expanded to many schools in the district and opened lines of communication with School leaders, local environmental groups, PTA Council and aldermen. We have made significant progress, for example, with Nutritional Services in the elimination of 12,000 weekly Styrofoam lunch trays, using instead compostable trays, and food waste now being commercially composted at five schools. Packaged napkin-straw-spork are now offered as separate items. We recently won a grant to purchase condiment dispensers, eliminating individual plastic packaging. Some schools have worked with Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) to conduct waste audits and recycling presentations. We are working on a universal D65 bulk supplies program (where each teacher gets funds to purchase what is needed). Last year we trialed an end-of-year clean out with much success and many lessons learned. Lastly, we are endeavoring to reduce waste at PTA events, minimizing garbage significantly, including composting while saving money by going beyond single-use plastics and unnecessary trinkets.

We have had positive feedback from students, teachers and principals as they realize the collective impact of their relatively small actions. Lunchroom supervisors and custodians have quickly adopted these environmental policies and are the driving force to their successful implementation, for which we are grateful.

Despite this success, we are reaching out to Evanstonians to demand these actions be integrated into a D65 Environmental Policy, for decisions to be made through a lens of sustainability. We, the parents of D65 Green Teams, will eventually move with our kiddos from elementary to middle school and onto high school and beyond. We don’t want our efforts to fade, and need them to be standardized, institutionalized, and disseminated broadly, so that our children maintain the opportunities and skills to contribute positively towards climate change mitigation, in Evanston and around the world.