In recent years, we have seen many positive impacts from the new construction of “Green” school facilities around Oregon. However, it does not necessarily take a new building or a laborious remodel to create a more sustainable environment. Whether your buildings are brand new or years old, it takes just a little extra energy to generate the resources to reduce both waste and consumption, and facilities management staff members are perfectly placed to lead these efforts. The Oregon Green Schools Association has a program that centers on water, energy and waste conservation. The Bend-LaPine School District has a program called “Clean Sweep” that works to reduce classroom waste and encourage environmental responsibility. Both programs show what is possible in any school, new or old.

The Oregon Green Schools Association is a non-profit organization formed in 1997. The association works with schools through three levels of certification: Entry, Merit and Primer. It works with students, teachers and staff to recycle, reduce waste, save energy and conserve water. Approximately 200 schools participate in this program, and it continues to grow throughout the state.

The certification program has approximately 25 regional coordinators throughout the state. These regional coordinators help schools to conduct waste audits, provide guidance and training for new programs, and recommend curriculum resources and grant opportunities. At this time, the association is seeking “Sustainability Captains” to work within a school. There is even funding available to support this effort. For rural schools in locations with less than 23,000 people, or schools designated as Title 1, the association can pay a $1,000 stipend to the Sustainability Captain. This person can be any member of the school staff and will recruit and work throughout the year with a student “green team.” The green team performs waste, water and energy investigations, and implements conservation practices. The team’s main objective is to obtain Oregon Green School Certification, and can then attend the annual Green School Summit or even a regional showcase. For more information on this program, see the website at www.oregongreenschools.org.

The Clean Sweep program in the Bend-LaPine School District is another great example of sustainability work. In one elementary school program, the students and teachers take responsibility for making sure their classroom is tidied up at the end of the day, in order to make the evening janitorial team’s job a little easier each day. Students will help clean the floors, gather up any lost or spilled supplies, and empty all of the garbage cans and recycling bins – they even clean the halls and common area floors. The program not only helps children learn responsibility, but also to appreciate their school facility and the work that goes into keeping it clean. One class last year picked up – in one day – 90 pencils, 21 markers, 33 erasers and 5 glue sticks!

Every week, the building engineer awards one outstanding classroom the Golden Dustpan award. The class that wins the Golden Dustpan award the most times during the school year is awarded a popsicle party at the end of the year. For more information about Clean Sweep, you can contact Jackie Wilson, who also is the Board Chair of the Oregon Green Schools Association, at jackie@oregongreenschools.org.

The Oregon Green Schools Association and Clean Sweep show that reducing waste as well as saving resources and money for your school, is possible in all sorts of settings. Rural or urban, new construction or old, your facilities staff can make a difference in bringing sustainability into focus for your school.