Recycling stations at SCH.

Recycling stations at SCH.

Rooftop solar arrays. 3-Star Green Restaurant certification. Gold LEED certified science facility. Playscape made from natural and recycled materials. Cafeterias that use only non-disposable tableware.

These are some of the environmental features highlighted on a recent U.S. Department of Education-sponsored “Green Strides” tour of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH).

The tour was organized to showcase the environmental best practices of the department’s Green Ribbon Schools in the Philadelphia area. Established in 2012, the Green Ribbon School program recognizes schools around the country that are working to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of students and staff, and provide effective sustainability education.

A 2012 award recipient, SCH was “in the forefront of schools to receive recognition,” explained Andrea Suarez Falken, director of the national program.

Among the 20 tour participants were Falken; David Bauman, director of the Pennsylvania Green Ribbon Schools; Lorna Rosenberg, Green and Healthy Schools coordinator, Region 3 EPA; and Amy Edelman, founder of Green in Chestnut Hill (GRinCH), a group of NW Philadelphia residents and business people interested in promoting and supporting sustainable practices.

During the tour, participants heard not only about how the school has reduced its environmental impact through smart design and the use of green technologies but also about how students have contributed to the school’s sustainability efforts.

Among the student initiatives highlighted were a Lower School playscape made of natural and recycled material that was designed by 4th graders as part of a design thinking project, recycling stations designed by students for the school’s cafeterias, a student-organized Eco Festival showcasing sustainability practices, and a Green Devils club promoting student awareness and involvement in activities aimed at protecting the environment.

Tour participant Amy Edelman expressed enthusiasm for the school’s broad-based efforts.

“Over the past few years, GRinCH has awarded several grants to SCH students for greening projects,” she said. “It was fantastic to see the cafeteria composting and water refilling stations in action that GRinCH helped to fund. As an environmentalist, I was inspired by SCH’s comprehensive program. They continue to raise the bar and have built the school culture around sustainability. It’s heartening to know that these 1,000 students are surrounded by leaders leading.”

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