At Greenhill, ‘Green’ Thinking Is Becoming The Way Of Life
By Tom Kessler
When you have the word “green” in your school name, it’s probably safe to assume that environmental awareness is top of mind. That’s exactly the case at Addison’s Greenhill School, a coeducational private day school with more than 1,200 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
Over the last four years, the school’s Green Team — composed of parents and faculty — has led a series of sustainability initiatives that are truly putting the green in Greenhill. School leaders have looked for ways to make the school a more sustainable place and to promote eco-friendly habits in the students.
On this picturesque campus at Midway and Spring Valley, students, faculty, staff and parents are working to change their behavior and eliminate wasteful practices. Projects include:
- Plastic Bottle Recycling: With the awareness that thousands of sports drinks and bottles of water were being consumed each year on campus, recycling bins were set up across campus to recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
- BYOB: The school encourages students and faculty to use refillable bottles by providing filtered water in break rooms and at water fountains. The students learned that each year in the U.S., we use more than 10 million barrels of oil to produce bottled water – and even more to transport all those bottles. So the Green team spread that word: “the first ‘R’ is Reduce – so even better than recycling water bottles is creating a culture where BYOB is the norm.”
- No-Idle Zone: While not a strictly enforced rule, Greenhill’s no-idle zone reminds carpool drivers to shut off their engines. Idling is just a waste of gasoline.
- And the school has added a large butterfly garden outside the pre-school. Butterflies and other “beneficials” are attracted by low-water and native plants such as Lantana and Vitex.
But the centerpiece of the school’s green program is its Community Garden, which provides a valuable teaching lesson to more than a dozen classes of students, who help plant and tend a range of produce.
“The mission of the garden is educational and community service,” says Ann Drumm, a former head of the Dallas chapter of the Sierra Club who chairs Greenhill’s Green Team. “The highest priority is making garden plots available to teachers who want to use it as a teaching tool.”
In each of the last two years, the school has harvested more than 2,000 pounds of produce that was distributed through the North Dallas Shared Ministries Food Bank. “So we are helping people in the community who need a little help feeding their families and we’re very proud of that,” says Drumm.
And for the mostly lower-school students who tend the garden, there’s a first-hand look at the science of farming.
“We have one third-grade group that’s going to compare wildflower seeds grown here in the garden with the amended soils versus out in the wildlife area,” says Cathleen Garcia, a faculty rep on the Green Team. “So there are a lot of different ways they’re using the garden to learn about environmental science.”
Beyond the school’s own students, Drumm says the garden also will be used to teach others in the region about the benefits of community gardening. “We just had four kids from Waxahachie drive up to see what we’re doing because they want to start their own garden.”
And many of the existing projects, such as the compost bins, will grow over time. “Eventually, we’re going to expand our composting operations so we can start receiving some of the fruit and vegetable scraps from the cafeteria and work them in with leaves collected from around campus and just have a much larger composting operation,’ says Drumm.
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