From Orange County Public Schools
John King, The U.S. Secretary of Education, named Orange County Public Schools a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee, one of only 15 districts in the nation to receive that award. The district has developed long range sustainability strategic objectives to support districtwide goals. Just two of the dozens of things the district’s recycling program has done:
- Kept over 55 million pounds of materials out of local landfills
- Saved more than $600,000 over the last three years.
OCPS has achieved an impressive inventory of sustainable school facilities, with a total of 36 schools designed and constructed using a sustainable rating system. This includes four LEED ratings, 28 Green Globe certifications, and four Florida Green Building Coalition projects. Another 16 schools currently in the design or construction phases are anticipated to achieve a sustainable rating.
In 1996, OCPS implemented a districtwide indoor air quality management program. The Environmental Compliance Department implements the OCPS Indoor Air Quality Management Plan, trains OCPS personnel in all aspects of good indoor air quality, assists in the investigation and remediation of potential indoor air quality problems, and verifies the effectiveness of the plan and corrective measures.
The recycling program, which began in 1991, has saved more than $600,000 over the last three years. The district recycles universal waste, metal, petroleum waste, electronic waste, yard waste, used tires, textbooks, district records, single-stream materials, and construction site waste. Last year alone, the district’s recycling program kept over 55 million pounds of materials out of local landfills.
OCPS developed its own districtwide Green Schools Recognition Program (GSRP), an incentivized behavior modification program to create cultures of sustainability. Categories of work include: energy efficiency, transportation, waste, water, health and well-being, school grounds, and innovation. This program has led to outcomes in the areas of nutrition, school gardens, security, air quality, wildlife habitats, and community partnerships.
OCPS celebrated its third annual Green Day by having service learning students from Timber Creek High School design and lead activities for a fun, educational day to celebrate the top green schools in the district. Local municipalities and vendors also participated in the event to help educate students about the environment and community engagement.
The district’s Surplus Services division reused over 58 percent of the items that were turned in districtwide during fiscal year 2015. The reissue of surplus furniture and equipment to the schools reduces trips to the landfill and has saved the district nearly $2.2 million dollars. The total cost benefit through surplus sales and reissue for the 2014-2015 school year was $3,570,492.
OCPS’ energy administration department conducts regular audits in all schools and follows up with efficiency recommendations. The Department uses Energy Cap Pro™ software to manage utility billing data, and identify consumption anomalies and savings opportunities. OCPS has developed a systematic approach to energy rebates by creating an energy rebate matrix to identify and pursue all rebate opportunities that comply with district design standards. These efforts have earned OCPS rebates of over $1.8 million since starting the program in 2013. These impressive results contributed to OCPS being selected for the Duke Energy Management Award in 2014. The energy rebate is used to fund the district’s GSRP.
OCPS has developed and implemented curriculum and choice programs specifically designed to integrate environmental and sustainability topics into the kindergarten through 12th grade academic experience. The district provides numerous tools and opportunities for teachers and students to be engaged in environmental education. Grade-level-appropriate lesson plans tie environmental education to Florida standards. For example, the middle and high schools have curricula that combine chemistry, the environment, and energy to predict the effect of individuals on environmental systems, and examine how human lifestyles affect sustainability. Environmentally themed, and STEM choice and career education programs are offered to students in elementary, middle, and high schools.
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