By Lynne Bronstein
The Culver City School Board heard from the CCUSD Environmental Sustainability Committee at its meeting Tuesday night. And like the U2 song playing as background for the committee’s video presentation, it looks like “a beautiful day” in store for the Culver City schools.
Todd Johnson, the committee’s co-chair, is enthusiastic about the work that has been done so far. Regarding the video he said “[It] shows most of what we’ve been trying to do-all the excitement of the kids.”
Students at three Culver City elementary schools-Farragut, El Marino, and Linwood E. Howe- are shown putting trash in bins, recyclable items in other bins, cleaning up around the school grounds, and being happy about what they are doing.
Shea Cunningham, also a member of the committee, emphasized that the CCUSD sustainability program is based on “the three E’s”—Economy, Environment, and Equity.
The Environmental Sustainability Committee was established by the CCUSD School Board in 2010. Its goal is to help Culver City’s schools to become fully sustainable. Cunningham listed the “Green 5” ways toward sustainability:
“Let the Sunshine In”—use of solar power.
“Unplug it”—less reliance on electric power.
“Too hot, too cold, just right”—sensible use of thermostats and dressing for the weather.
“Bring Your Own Bottle”—less use of plastic bottles.
“Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle.”
Schools are using charts to track student progress in these areas. Students, said Cunningham, ask other students: are you wearing a jacket to keep warm instead of turning up the heat? Are you bringing your own bottle to school?
Students also remember the rule: “If it is not ooey, gooey, or chewy, it is usually recyclable.” However, at Linwood E. Howe Elementary, the first school to adopt the Green 5 program, 80 per cent of the recycled waste is “mixed paper.”
The schools are using a two-bin system, with a blue bin for recycling and a black bin for trash. Composting is about to be instituted in lunch rooms and students are eating off compostable plates instead of Styrofoam.
“Our goal over time is to get down to three bags a day of trash,” said Johnson. But, he added, on the first day of Linwood E. Howe’s participation in Green 5, they had only two bags of landfill trash.
It’s important to produce less landfill trash, Johnson noted, because according to the EPA, food disposed of in landfills produces greenhouse gasses.
Another committee member, John Barton, talked about the Green 5 program’s future goals.
“If we get a grant proposal done, we can get recycling bins for the Middle and High Schools,” said Barton. Other projects will include Zero Waste Lunch Challenges, SunPower-led tours for schools, the PowerSave Schools program from the Alliance to Save Energy (which will be at no cost to schools), investments in energy efficiency from Prop 39 funding, and the potential for expanded sustainability education.
Barton added that the committee is looking at other school districts in California, such as the LAUSD (Los Angeles) and SMMUSD (Santa Monica-Malibu) districts as well as Ojai and Berkeley. All of these districts have been running successful sustainability programs.
The committee members thanked the people who’ve been giving support, including Assistant Superintendent Mike Reynolds (“He’s been to every meeting we’ve had,” said Barton), Superintendent David LaRose, and the principals of all the schools in the program.
Board member Patricia Siever had a question for the committee: “How many hours do you spend a month working at this?” (The committee members don’t get paid).
Johnson said he has been keeping count and believes he has clocked 3500 hours.
The Board could not have been more effusive in their praise of the Environmental Sustainability Committee.
In other actions, the Board heard a report on the progress of Capitol Projects for the School District.
The Athletic Field is very close to final completion. The high school’s season opener was played on the new artificial turf and restrooms, concessions, and ticket booths have been placed into service. Fields that were disturbed by construction have been re-seeded and are germinating grass.
SunPower has erected all the supporting structures for solar panels at the schools. There are some delays in installing the photovoltaic panels but this should be resolved shortly.
Construction of elevators for the high school has been approved by the DSA and work will begin shortly, with elevators expected to begin running within six months.
The District has been “in conversations” with architectural firm Hodgetts and Fung over plans for remodeling the Robert Frost Auditorium. The District is ready to have the firm proceed with schematic plans to provide Balfour Beatty with the basis for calculating the costs for each of the three components (HVAC system, Stage Improvement, and Back of House improvement) for the Auditorium.