How Much Greener Can You Get? Emerald!

Parkside Earns State Award for Sustainable Practices

Fifth-grader Camdyn Travis examines a water sample from Rum Creek (courtesy photos)

Students and staff at Parkside Elementary wanted to go green in a big way. They ended up going past green, all the way to emerald.

Parkside earned emerald status from Michigan Green Schools, a nonprofit supporting environmental stewardship practices statewide. Emerald is the agency’s second-highest ranking, falling between “green” and “evergreen.” The award permits Parkside to use the Michigan Green Schools logo on all its materials.

Students Go Green: A Special Issue for Earth Day, April 22
Students Go Green: A Special Issue for Earth Day, April 22

The recognition culminated an effort begun by parents last fall, building on sustainable practices Parkside already had in place. Third-grade teacher Virginia Weaver has long emphasized ecology education, and retired custodian Bob Bowman last spring was honored by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for leading student recycling efforts.

The school also works closely with Trout Unlimited, which helped fund a grant to remove a crumbling dam and restore fish population to Rum Creek, behind the school.

Fourth-grader Ariel LeBlanc with a student-made poster advising idling motorists, “Young lungs at play”

Weaver assembled a student “green team” of third- through fifth-graders and set about meeting the Green Schools requirements for sustainable activities. They included a compost bin for cafeteria scraps; recycling water bottles; an ArtPrize mural made of plastic lids; repurposed classroom materials; energy-efficient computer use; and a student-made sign encouraging drivers to turn off their engines while waiting outside the school.

Their green-friendly efforts are far from over, said Michele Lussky, chair of the parent committee.

“By the end of the project we still have a ‘wish list’ of 38 more programs and improvements we will try to implement next year,” she said by email. “We aren’t done by any means. We will need to reapply every year and I am hopeful that next year, we will earn ‘Evergreen.’”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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