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Big Ideas for a Small Planet, Re-Greening Planet Earth

the net distance traveled by MCPS buses equates four times the lengths of the Equator

the net distance traveled by MCPS buses equates four times the length of the Equator

Florescent tubes, courtyard gardens, poetry-out-loud, and handfuls of shadows traversing along the edge of the campus dragging bins of paper to the green cargo…since Senator Nelson initiated the modern green movement with the creation of Earth Day in the 70s, people young and old have actively enlisted for social campaigns to protect Mother Earth. In Montgomery County, grass-root and community alliances aren’t the only protectorates of a greener world; many schools have adopted eco-friendly measures in light of the motto ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle,’ inspiring thousands of students to pursue conservationist efforts.

In a recent report released by the MCPS Student Energy conservation and Recycling Team (SERT), eco-friendly practices have saved more than $800,000 in cost for Montgomery County Schools. About 90 or so public schools received Energy Awards, recognition for reducing energy usage levels from that of baseline measurements. The accomplishment is attributed to staff support, local green teams, and new awareness projects. Notably, in Clopper Mill Elementary School, first quarter energy usage was reduced by almost 44%.

Generally, primary schools have demonstrated higher recycling and energy conservation rates than secondary schools, both due to smaller, manageable campuses and effectively enforced classroom codes-of-conduct. Nonetheless, students in secondary schools devised interactive, original programs yielding results that rival works of their younger peers. Northwest, Churchill, and Blake High Schools have boosted recycling rates from those of last year; some schools have even constantly kept rates at as high as 4 pounds per person per month.

“Going green is really important to us,” says Jamie, a student at Julius West Middle School, which won an energy award for first quarter, “our SERT team patrols the school once every other Wednesday to turn off computers, monitors, and lights. We have another club for recycling. I know we are doing a service every time when we visit labs with clipboards and pencils in our hands.” The Julius West Green team was created in fall of 2007, since then, tens of students have channeled their passion for the environment into action, launching service projects and publicity to inspire their friends. As a part of the Middle Years Program, all Julius West sixth grade students participate in the annual field clean-up. During earth week, students, according to homeroom, are led across the edges of the campus to collect scattered waste and recyclables.

Elsewhere in Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, the Green team has recently adorned the school with new fluorescent tubes and lamps, which run on a 30% efficiency in contrast to the 5% guaranteed by incandescent bulbs. MCPS has also installed over 7,200 solar panels over the past few years at eight different schools to promote dependence on renewable energy. With growing efforts in place, MCPS has become one of the forerunners in the stewardship campaign of the 21st century.

A little everyday saves a lot along the way. According to SERT staff, $20,000 can be saved per month per school if all computers were shut down manually rather than by the centralized system. In addition, SERT encourages teachers to close classroom blinds before leaving work to prevent heating loss. At a time when the budget tightens, reducing running costs allow schools to better maintain and improve the education quality.

Currently, SERT is organizing the county-wide Watt’s Up? poster contest for students of all grade levels. Awards will be honored in different categories (energy conservation, recycling, and digital art) and age groups. More information could be found with school administrators. Winners will receive cash rewards, and their works will be prominently displayed in public schools and libraries.

Educators interested in learning more about how to go green or planning student activities should visit

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