State names Olympia Schools a 'Green District Leader'

Staff writerJuly 9, 2013 

An organic garden thrives among the dandelions and grass at the Olympia School District's Avanti High School. Some weeds are left on school campuses on purpose as part of the district's "green" landscaping approach, and every school offers an organic, locally grown salad bar. Olympia was recently named a "Green District Leader" by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Photo by Lisa Pemberton/Staff writer

From installing energy efficient lighting in its classrooms to creating compost programs in its cafeterias, there’s no question that the Olympia School District has made strides in recent years with conservation and energy-use reduction.

And now the nearly 9,200-student district is being recognized for those efforts.

Olympia was one of four districts in the state — and the only in Thurston County — to be designated recently as a Green District Leader, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“In the last four years, we’ve saved a million dollars in energy costs,” said Bonnie Meyer, a resource conservation manager with the Olympia School District. “… Our schools are using way less energy than almost any other schools.”

The district was presented the award June 27 by representatives from OSPI, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and E3 Washington, a nonprofit that promotes education, environment and the economy.

Vancouver, Mercer Island and Tahoma school districts also were named Green District Leaders; and Discovery Elementary School in Mukilteo was named a Green School Leader.

The Olympia School District has instituted numerous green efforts during the past decade, Meyer said. She added that just in the past year the district has reduced:

• Greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.

• Energy use by 20 percent.

• Water use by 30 percent.

• Garbage waste by 20 percent.

• Drive time and fuel for student transportation by 30 percent.

Meyer credits those results to the district’s comprehensive approach to being green.

“We think about all types of environmental issues, not just ‘What will help the whole school?’ but ‘What will help the whole Earth?’ ” she said.

Some of the biggest and greenest changes have been in the district’s nutrition program.

“Every single school has an organic, locally grown salad bar,” Meyer said. “Anything that’s waste gets composted. But if it’s edible than we can donate it to the food bank.”

Being named a Green District Leader is just the latest way Olympia School District has been recognized this year for its conservation and energy improvements, spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said.

Thirteen of the district’s schools were recently awarded Energy Star Certification from the EPA.

In addition, the district received a $241,700 Jobs Now Grant to fund numerous energy-efficiency improvements including a new heating and ventilation system at Hansen Elementary School and the installation of solar panels at Roosevelt Elementary School, Japhet said. 

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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