DOUGLAS COUNTY— It's Earth Week, and members of Douglas County School District’s (DCSD) Sustainability team have big plans they can’t wait to share with the community. On April 18, 19 and 20, attendees will discover student-led initiatives such as solar-powered cell phone charging stations and other initiatives that have created real change at their schools, urban garden kits and beehive sourcing information, and vendors like Denver Botanic Gardens and Red Apple Recycling. Attendees will also want to bring their own recyclable bottle or can so they can upcycle them into a work of art at the Art Cart.
View the full schedule of events here
“This is going to be a ton of fun. This is the first time we’ve really brought together people who work in sustainability throughout the district and people who are passionate about it. We are really excited to bring schools together so they can share best practices, share ideas, show off what they are doing, bring in community organizations that are eco-minded to share their services and opportunities and things like that,” says DCSD Sustainability Coordinator, Courtney Kuntz.
Additionally, the first ever “Earthie” Awards will be held. The “Earthies” will recognize teachers, principals, building engineers and other staff members, as well as projects, that have helped lay the foundation for sustainability in DCSD and innovate new methods for sustainability.
Kuntz says the most important thing about sustainability programs in DCSD is the impact it has on students.
“Students who are engaged in sustainability programs, projects or environmental education, they’re engaged in real authentic experiential learning and they are also making real change in their schools and in their communities. So Earth Week is an opportunity to celebrate what they’re doing and really show off how awesome they are,” she says.
Sustainability efforts are also helping DCSD save money and put those savings back into the classrooms, during a particularly difficult fiscal time in which every dollar matters.
“It’s helping reduce the district’s impact on the environment as a whole so we can be better at conserving our own financial resources— and those financial resources we reserve can be put back into the classrooms. So really it boils down to the impact on students,” Kuntz says.
Grant funding has also helped incentivize sustainability projects in schools this past school year, further helping conserve financial resources in DCSD.
“This was our first year of our incentive program where we had a small grant program that schools could apply for to reduce energy consumption,” Kuntz explains. “At these events we’re going to have students and teachers from the thirteen schools that received funding give presentations on what their proposal was, why they selected that initiative and how that is going to impact the bottom line and the environment.”
More than anything, though, Kuntz is most excited about the connections people are going to make next week.
“We have so many schools doing so many awesome things but they don’t always know what everyone’s doing. So this is the first time they can really walk around the room and say ‘oh wow, this school has a really amazing garden’ and ‘this school does a really cool waste audit and waste reduction initiative.’ So this is really their opportunity to share what their speciality is and what they are doing, and meet one another.”