CCUSD Earns Green Achiever District Honors Culver City Unified School District
March 9, 2017
California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson was at Culver City High to nominate Culver City Unified School District a Green Achiever District and nominate CCUSD as one of only three districts in the state to compete in the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition program. The program honors schools that conserve resources while promoting health and environmental literacy. CCUSD will be honored in May for its state award and at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. in July as part of its federal recognition. "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,"said CCUSD Superintendent Josh Arnold. "CCUSD takes pride in the continual improvements that are being made to reduce the District's environmental impacts; improve the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the community; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education."According to Torlakson, Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate exemplary achievement in three "pillars."Pillar I: reduce environmental impact and costs; Pillar II: improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Pillar III: provide effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, civic skills, and green career pathways. "These schools and districts serve as role models for their students in two important ways," said Torlakson, who started his public service career as a high school science teacher and coach. "First, they manage their own facilities wisely by saving energy, conserving water, and reducing their impact on the environment. Next, they provide innovative education programs that teach students about nature, the importance of clean air and water, and how to make good choices to preserve the environment for future generations."Torlakson said this is especially important now that the environment is facing so many threats, such as climate change. "These schools follow and advance a proud California tradition of caring for the environment and preserving our state's stunning, natural resources that are celebrated and known throughout the world," he said
The California Green Ribbon Schools recognition award uses the applications submitted for nomination to ED-GRS to recognize schools and school districts for environmental excellence. California is one of 25 states as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity that are expected to nominate schools and districts for federal recognition this year. CCUSD has long been a leader in focusing its schools, its students and its community on environmental initiatives. In October 2010 the CCUSD Board of Education created the Environmental Sustainability Committee (ESC) to help the District become more environmentally and fiscally sustainable and foster an eco-literate and globally responsible student body. The ESC is comprised of parent volunteers with knowledge and experience in sustainability and a passion to help the District.In 2011 the ESC facilitated a third-party baseline energy audit of the school facilities, created a sustainability master plan for the school board, and began working on bringing a 750kW solar PV system to the District's main campus (Culver City high school, Middle School and Farragut Elementary) to reduce the District's carbon footprint and raise money for the general fund. Since February 2014, the solar panels have accounted for approximately 82% of the energy needs of the three schools, delivered more than $500,000 back into the District's general fund each year over the life of the system, and avoided approximately 2,326 tons of GHGs annually. During the 2011-2012 school year the ESC launched the "Green5" (co-curricular) sustainability education program to increase awareness amongst students and staff about recycling; reducing waste, energy and water consumption; reusing materials; engaging in active transportation and rethinking thinking local solutions to global problems. TheGreen5, also known as the "Five Rs" (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Ride & Rethink), was piloted at Linwood E. Howe Elementary School, which included recycling audits, surveys, a campus-wide recycling program, signage and other messaging, and the establishment of a student leadership program. The post audit found recycling rates increased by 500% and sustainability awareness amongst the students and staff also substantially increased. During the 2012-2013 school year, per support from a CalRecycle grant, CCUSD's ESC brought the Green5 recycling and sustainability education program to all five elementary schools with the addition of food waste composting across all five campuses. In 2014 CCUSD received a second CalRecycle grant that enabled CCUSD to transform the Green5 into a district-wide program and purchase durable custom-designed sorting stations for the middle school, high school, Culver Park continuation high school, adult school and Office of Child Development. In addition, the grant provided funding for a Sustainability Coordinator to develop and manage the program.
This position is now funded directly by the District's general fund. "It has been my distinct honor to have worked so closely over the past five years with so many passionate student and staff leaders, dedicated parent volunteers, supportive school board members and the empowering superintendent's office," said CCUSD Sustainability Coordinator Shea Cunningham. "Together, we have built a district-wide Sustainability Program based on best practices and committed to continual improvement. Together we make the difference!"Since 2014, the amount of materials being sent to the landfill by CCUSD has been reduced by more than 50%. 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 GHGs 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 GHGs avoided. The Green5 district-wide program now includes: annual school assemblies; student leaders at each school site; Sustainability Staff Liaisons (teachers and administrators) created to support the Green5 program at each school site; trainings on energy and water auditing, waste reduction analysis and techniques; annual district-wide recycling competitions; district-wide (3x/year) administration, analysis and dissemination of the My Actions Count Survey; a robust Safe Route to School-sponsored Walk and Rollers Program (known as the fourth R in Green5) with growing participation; an expanding partnership with Culver CityBus Green Fleet; an award-winning (and still progressing) food program; and a civic engagement program focused on reducing food waste and sharing food with local family "back pack" program. Also under the Green5 umbrella, there is an air quality program, a green cleaning pilot and a mindfulness pilot underway; and edible and learning gardens in every school, among other initiatives. CCUSD was also an early adopter of the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI), and provided training to a cross section of CCUSD teachers in 2011. Although only a subset of teachers are currently using the EEI in their classrooms, CCUSD is considered an EEI "Deep Implementer School District."CCUSD is looking forward to adopting the new statewide textbooks in 2018 that will integrate the EEI curriculum across grades and subject areas. Currently, CCUSD has three environmental studies courses (CCMS Environmental Science, CCHS AP Environmental Science and Global Sustainability) that have been approved by the school board. In June 2016, the Board of Education passed an Environmentally Preferential Purchasing Policy (EPPP) and is currently considering the adoption of BP 1350 Green Operations, which includes a commitment for advancing eco-literacy. "CCUSD is working hard to foster a culture of sustainability," said Board of Education member Kelly Kent. "When people come to CCUSD's campuses and see our solar PV arrays, award-winning custom designedsorting stations, Green5 banners and posters, they know the District embraces the responsibility to create a more sustainable world. CCUSD students and staff have cultivated a habit of practicing the Five Rs, and an understanding of what kind of positive impact they are making as a collective community. And, as they go out into the world, they are carrying this knowledge with them.