The weather the morning of Saturday, March 28, was gloomy, with intermittent showers giving way to a suppressive fog. But no amount of Mother Nature's nastiest could deter the enthusiastic teachers, students, administrators and parents who gathered at Teatown Lake Reservation
to form Westchester's first Green Schools Coalition.
Hosted by the Children's Environmental Literacy Foundation
, Teatown and Westchester County's Climate Change Advisory Council
, the meeting featured representatives from the county's greenest districts: Scarsdale, Briarcliff, Byram Hills, Irvington, Somers, Yonkers and Katonah. (And me, of course. I managed to sneak in as the "independent schools'" representative!) To begin, each district gave a five-minute presentation on their accomplishments, goals and lessons learned. All I can say is that I was in awe.
Who knew so much has been happening in Westchester? These schools' accomplishments are too great to fit in one article. For example, Scarsdale has developed a $7.1 million plan, which will pay for itself, to cut its carbon footprint 10 percent below 1990 levels. Briarcliff has instituted everything from composting and waterless urinals (apparently to guys, they're pretty cool?) to a sustainability curriculum and plans for solar panels and a green roof. Byram Hills has uniquely involved its students, with Green Teams in every school and kid-produced PSAs and garden projects. Irvington is utilizing the river with a Hudson River Curriculum, while Somers is "watching their watts" and promoting human rights and education for sustainability. The Riverside School for Engineering and Design in Yonkers has a completely green curriculum, and Katonah recently retrofitted its buses and installed gardens and nature trails in the elementary school. And that's not even the half of their actions. (If you'd like to know more about any particular school, leave a comment below and I'll fill you in.)
The purpose of the proposed Green Schools Coalition is to bring together leading schools in Westchester who are successfully implementing green initiatives so that they can learn "how best to green our schools and integrate sustainability throughout K-12 curriculum and programming." Such a coalition would benefit all stakeholders, from students and parents to teachers and administrators. One of the things I was most impressed by was the effort to actively involve everyone, clichéd as it may sound. Every one of the four groups had an opportunity to present their needs and ideas, which the majority resounded to the tune of, "Where's the money?"
But never fear! A government official informed us, there is $126 million coming into New York from the Obama stimulus package to fund green initiatives, and another $400 million for green transportation projects. Applications are competitive and due by May 28, more to come. A little hint: check out Westchester or your government's global warming plan. The more closely your idea aligns with a government idea, the better off your application.
The meeting overall was an overwhelming success, and a second meeting/conference is in the works. If your school would like to get involved, leave a comment or contact Dennis Power at firstname.lastname@example.org
. For students, the Westchester Environmental Student Council (WESC) is going to be resurrected soon. Meeting time to come, but if you'd like more information, check out their website
or join the Facebook group.
As Teatown Direct Fred Koontz said, there are three stages to a revolution. The first is the awakening, the second envisioning of the future. The third stage, which is where most revolutions fail, is restructuring: actually changing actions. We are in third phase now. The successes of these schools show that the green revolution is here to stay.
Photo Credit: http://www.teatown.org/about/gallery.htm