Story URL:
Story Retrieval Date: 12/18/2014 9:15:58 PM CST

Top Stories

Chicago Public Schools teaching green by example

by Susan Dosemagen
Oct 07, 2008

The best teaching “shows” instead of “tells,” educators say, so Chicago Public Schools are going to teach students how to be environmental stewards by improving the schools’ environmental practices.

“We want to do a better job of leading by example,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan Tuesday. “Not just through our talk, but through our actions [showing] how serious we are about helping our school system become greener.”

Duncan said the schools have developed an environmental plan as part of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s goal of making Chicago the country’s greenest city. The plan has 26 strategies to reach 11 goals, including this year’s top three priorities of energy management, recycling and land use.

Strategies for energy management include automatic shutdown of computers, use of energy efficient equipment in schools and auditing schools’ energy use. Eventually, the audit results will be available online.

The plan aims to reduce the consumption of paper, reuse equipment and increase the percentage of waste recycled in the schools.

“Hopefully everything that’s coming through CPS that can be recycled will be recycled,” said Suzanne Carlson, environmental program manager for the schools.

There are some hitches in cutting back on waste, including budget. For example, many schools use plastic foam trays because they cost about 10 cents less per tray than biodegradable trays. The plan doesn’t address this environmental problem or others, such as the impact on energy consumption by deferred building maintenance.

“The very first thing our taskforce said to us was you cannot possibly achieve any of these goals if you don’t engage every person who lives in this city, every student and every business,” said Karen Hobbs, deputy commissioner of the city Department of Environment.

Many Chicago schools are already active in teaching students about environmental impact.

“Teachers are really where the power lies and they can really creatively integrate these lessons in the classroom,” Carlson said.

Vince Iturralde, is principal of Tarkington School of Excellence in the Little Village neighborhood, the first Chicago public school to have the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification as green. He said teachers integrate environment and sustainability ideas into core curriculum to make children more aware of environmental concerns.

He said they try to get students to “be more aware of [the environment] so that they in turn could also teach that to their kids.”