Students recognized for their wide-ranging efforts to create a more sustainable St. Louis region
Recently the U.S. Green Building Council–Missouri Gateway Chapter (USGBC-MGC) announces the winners of its 2019–2020 Green Schools Quest. The chapter also wishes to recognize all 2,000 students, representing 68 St. Louis-area schools, who worked on Green Schools Quest projects from October to March. Each student team received help from one of 68 volunteer Green Mentors, professionals with an interest or expertise in sustainability. Collectively, the projects implemented by this year’s participants had a positive impact on more than 45,000 students, faculty, and community members.
Students at pre-K, elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the St. Louis region designed and implemented low-cost, high-impact sustainability practices within their schools and communities. A national panel of judges selected first-, second-, and third-place winners in elementary, middle, and high school categories. Winners also were chosen by a local panel of judges for five spotlight awards, including Rookie of the Year, Sustainability Champion, Judges’ Choice, Innovation, and Focus of the Year.
Among the 15 schools receiving cash prizes and trophies, five entrants are first-time participants:
- Crestwood Elementary in the Lindbergh School District, where students won first-place recognition for their “Green Wave of Change” project that engaged their peers, school custodians, and community partners in a recycling program.
- Bryan Hill Elementary & Columbia Elementary in the St. Louis Public School District, where students worked together to quantify the impact that excessive use of polystyrene foam has on North St. Louis communities. They then developed solutions to reduce the district’s reliance on poly-foam serving trays in school cafeterias.
- KIPP Victory Academy, where students rehabilitated eight long-forgotten garden beds that KIPP inherited when purchasing the school. Over the course of the project, students increased their ability to sequence the steps to plant a seed and increased correct fruit, vegetable and herb identification. They also installed a rain barrel.
- St. Michael’s School of Clayton, where students won second place in the Middle School category with several projects inspired by the question “How can YOU make a difference?” Students promoted recycling, reduced plastic pollution and energy use, and encouraged their community to make sustainable choices.
- Ladue Horton Watkins High School, where students won third-place recognition for designing a recycling plan that administrators approved for adoption next year. Their plan was supported by data from an audit of the waste generated by their cafeteria that the students conducted.
Participants in the Quest have the option to design projects around a pre-selected Focus of the Year—which this year was environmental justice. According to the chapter, environmental justice “embraces the idea that all of us are equally responsible for caring for our planet and that no group of people should be unfairly affected by unsustainable environmental practices.”
St. Joseph’s Academy in Frontenac, second-place winner in the High School category, was among 12 schools incorporating the environmental justice focus. Its students learned about the social and environmental impacts of the clothing industry, before identifying sustainable sources for t-shirts. They took steps to ensure that, from now on, all t-shirts purchased for school events will be created from organic materials and produced by workers making a living wage.
Truman Elementary School in the Meramec Valley R-III School District, winner of the Judges’ Choice Award, aimed to shape the overall mindset of their school and ensure healthy habits for present and future students. Students engaged in composting, recycling, growing a garden, and creating healthy eating habits. Their team branched out to engage their school district as a whole in hopes of catalyzing more holistic, positive changes beyond their school.
“Collaboration – within and beyond the school – stood out as a key to success in many of this year’s projects. Many schools established green teams with representation from a wide range stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, school administration, and facilities staff. Others engaged community partners in their work, strengthening their projects while also building the community at large,” says Hope Gribble, the USGBC-MGC’s Education and Green Schools Manager. “Each year, we are inspired by the creativity and leadership demonstrated by students as they work to create greener, healthier learning environments.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close in March, the USGBC-MGC extended its submission deadline from early March to mid-April. The chapter was then forced to cancel its Green Schools Quest awards ceremony, previously scheduled for April 15. However, it has created video compilations to publicly recognize all 68 schools that participated. A new video will be released daily from May 18 to May 22 at 10 a.m. and will remain available at www.greenschoolsquest.org The 2019–2020 Green Schools Quest Winners are listed below:
- 1st – A Green Wave of Change, Crestwood Elementary (Lindbergh School District)
- 2nd – Transportation Pollution Solution, St. Margaret of Scotland (St. Louis)
- 3rd – Brown School Waste Warriors, Brown Elementary (Hazelwood School District)
- 1st – RMS Earthletes Make Long-Lasting Change, Rogers Middle School (Affton School District)
- 2nd – Making a Difference in Our School, The St. Michael School of Clayton
- 3rd – Cafeteria Waste Reduction, Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School (MRH School District)
- 1st – Impact Challenge, Principia Upper School (Town and Country)
- 2nd – “Not I, but We” Environmental Justice, St. Joseph’s Academy (St. Louis)
- 3rd – Reintroducing Recycling: Students Reduce Cafeteria Waste, Ladue Horton Watkins High School (Ladue School District)
- Rookie of the Year – KIPP Victory Garden, KIPP Victory Academy (KIPP Public Charter School, St. Louis)
- Sustainability Champion – Bye Bye Bags, W.W. Keysor Elementary (Kirkwood School District)
- Focus of the Year—Environmental Justice – SLPS Can’t Afford Styrofoam Anymore, Bryan Hill Elementary & Columbia Elementary (St. Louis Public School District)
- Judges’ Choice – Green Team, Truman Elementary (Meramec Valley R-III School District)
- Innovation – Going Beyond, Sunrise R-IX Elementary (Sunrise R-IX School District)
Learn more about the Green Schools Quest and this year’s projects at www.greenschoolsquest.org.
Founded in 2001, the Missouri Gateway Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is dedicated to the idea that everyone deserves to live, work, and learn in green and healthy buildings. The USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter conducts education and outreach that engage community leaders in sustainable projects that provide environmental, health, and economic benefits throughout the region. The chapter’s 400 members, who represent a wide range of organizations, share a common vision to create a more sustainable St. Louis metro area. Learn more at www.usgbc-mogateway.org.