Feb 26, 2018 - 10:20 am CST

Becoming a green school: Eastside Memorial High School's Journey, photo is a girl carrying a hose.

Eastside Memorial High School is known for tackling environmental issues head-on. This became even more evident when they became the first high school in Texas to be recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as an Eco-Schools USA Green School.

The road to becoming a Green School began in 2014, when the school embarked on a campus-wide beautification project. The overall effort included building a garden, compost system, flow form, and wicking bed for plant propagation. They also built an outdoor learning area using grant funding from the City’s Bright Green Future Grant program. The “big picture” was an integrated system that would produce food and fertility for future generations while achieving a creative solution to a well-known local environmental issue — water usage and drought.

Then, in 2015, the school decided to focus on waste by conducting an audit through Keep Austin Beautiful‘s Generation Zero Program. Through the audit, they discovered that 82 percent of the school’s landfill waste was recyclable or compostable. In response, the school’s Green Teens club made recycling bins available in each class, making it easier for students and staff to recycle. Additionally, the construction tech class built 3D display boards to remind the campus community to recycle.

Students being presented with a big check for the project at their school.

Students working soil on a school campus.  Outdoor classroom made of large stones outside of a school.

The students and staff are very proud of these initiatives, and this year, they are looking to do even more. For the 2017-18 school year, Eastside Memorial was awarded a Bright Green Future Grant to solve the problem of erosion on campus. For the project, students from the Environmental Systems and Engineering classes will work with Engineers Without Borders in designing, building, planting, and caring for a rain garden. This will provide students with real-world experience in solving an environmental issue that directly impacts a space they use daily.

The students started on the design phase last fall and will begin construction this month. They hope to complete the project in May with the help of UT students, Keep Austin Beautiful, and school staff.

Kudos to the students, faculty, and partners of Eastside Memorial High School for their dedication to making their little corner of Austin a little greener for everyone!

Eastside memorial students with City staff pose behind a garden on campus.

Feb 23, 2018 - 02:41 pm CST

Net-Zero Hero Chris Brooks, Photo of Chris with a green background

I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by: involving kids in sustainable practices in meaningful and fun ways.

 

Chris Brooks headshotMeet Chris Brooks, Environmental Science teacher at Clint Small Middle School. Chris has been teaching at Small for 16 years, and has been involved in shaping the school’s Green Tech Academy curriculum. Small is one of the first Austin-area schools to implement green programs in the classroom, beginning with waste audits in the early 2000’s. Now, the school has an abundance of sustainable features — including rain gardens, vegetable gardens, rainwater catchment cisterns, a large greenhouse, an outdoor classroom, composting, and more. They also raise chickens, ducks, goats, and sheep at the school campus. Chris is helping his students learn how to build and design these various systems, and explore the ways in which they are connected. The aim is to give kids the hands-on experience needed to cultivate a greener world. 

We spoke with Chris about his commitment to Net-Zero, what his toughest challenges have been, and what advice he has for others looking to live Net-Zero. Read more below.

 

What inspired you to take action?

My inspiration came from several places. Permaculture helped me see that most of the major issues and problems we face — environmental stewardship, economic viability, and social justice — are connected. Biomimicry provided the question required to make all design sustainable: "How would nature solve this problem?" And David Bamberger — a former chicken tycoon turned conservationist — demonstrated the promise of sustainability in action when he restored a 5,500 acre ranch to its original habitat.

 

How did you do it?

The short answer would be trial and error — and finding support in a diverse network of local community, education, government, and business groups

 

Whats's been the toughest part?

Getting past misconceptions, like “technology and nature are opposed”, the environment is some place “‘out there”, and “new, complicated ways are superior to old, simple ones”. Once kids have the experience of interacting directly with the world — whether it is holding a chicken, designing and building a rain garden, or growing their own food — they don't need to be further convinced that sustainability can be fun.

 

On a daily basis, the benefit is kids reconnecting with nature by caring for animals, growing food, composting, harvesting water, etc. Long-term, I hope that the habits they develop will create a generation of systems-based thinkers and designers.

 

The facts are clear; the story needs to change. Rather than presenting sustainable living as a mere lifestyle — or worse, as giving things up – the story has to be about opportunity, creativity and community. In other words, it has to be about doing more good rather than doing less bad.

Chris Brooks with two small sheep on leashes in a school parking lot.

We took so many great photos for this piece, we couldn't include them all! See more photos of Chris and his students.

 

To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to sustainability@austintexas.gov.

Feb 21, 2018 - 04:08 pm CST

City of Austin "Waste Not" Challenge Winner: Sarah Seidel

Photo of Sarah Seidel with a green background.

City of Austin employees recently competed against each other in a week-long "Waste Not" challenge. The challenge tracks "green" actions taken by participants, and is done through our Rethink/ app. In the end, Sarah Seidel with Austin Public Health claimed the top spot — by only one point! We asked Sarah a few questions about how the challenge went for her. Here's what she had to say.

What was your favorite part about competing in the challenge?

My favorite part was being able to share all the different ways throughout the day that I practice green living. I’ve made a personal and household commitment to doing so many of the things in the app, but I’ve also tried to institute the practices on a larger scale for the condo complex we live in. As HOA manager there, I’ve implemented composting, native and drought resistant landscaping, single stream and hazardous waste recycling collection, etc.

At the office, Janice Savengrith (5th place winner) and I tried to document some of the ways employees are encouraged to “waste not”. For example, our kitchen has reusable mugs, cups, plates, bowls, and silverware; we have a CFL and battery recycling bin; every cubicle or office has a recycling bin; and we have water bottle refill stations to encourage people to bring and use refillable water bottles.

What obstacles did you face while competing in the challenge?

It’s time consuming to document things you do all the time without thinking (i.e. every time you recycle, compost, bring your lunch, use reusable silverware, and pick up dog waste)!

Anything else to add?

The app actually helped me identify some new things I hadn’t thought about doing at home, which was great!

The combined actions of all challenge participants resulted in the following:

1.4 thousand pounds CO2 saved, 344 pounds waste diverted, 1.7 thousand gallons water saved

CITY OF AUSTIN WASTE NOT CHALLENGE | Final Leaderboard

Sarah Seidel, Austin Public Health — 729 points

Albert Navarro, Austin Parks and Recreation — 728 points

Andrea Rose, Law Department — 679 points

Janice Savengrith, Austin Public Health — 602 points

Cathy Jackson, Purchasing Department — 499 points

 

Feb 23, 2018 - 02:41 pm CST

Net-Zero Hero Chris Brooks, Photo of Chris with a green background

I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by: involving kids in sustainable practices in meaningful and fun ways.

 

Chris Brooks headshotMeet Chris Brooks, Environmental Science teacher at Clint Small Middle School. Chris has been teaching at Small for 16 years, and has been involved in shaping the school’s Green Tech Academy curriculum. Small is one of the first Austin-area schools to implement green programs in the classroom, beginning with waste audits in the early 2000’s. Now, the school has an abundance of sustainable features — including rain gardens, vegetable gardens, rainwater catchment cisterns, a large greenhouse, an outdoor classroom, composting, and more. They also raise chickens, ducks, goats, and sheep at the school campus. Chris is helping his students learn how to build and design these various systems, and explore the ways in which they are connected. The aim is to give kids the hands-on experience needed to cultivate a greener world. 

We spoke with Chris about his commitment to Net-Zero, what his toughest challenges have been, and what advice he has for others looking to live Net-Zero. Read more below.

 

What inspired you to take action?

My inspiration came from several places. Permaculture helped me see that most of the major issues and problems we face — environmental stewardship, economic viability, and social justice — are connected. Biomimicry provided the question required to make all design sustainable: "How would nature solve this problem?" And David Bamberger — a former chicken tycoon turned conservationist — demonstrated the promise of sustainability in action when he restored a 5,500 acre ranch to its original habitat.

 

How did you do it?

The short answer would be trial and error — and finding support in a diverse network of local community, education, government, and business groups

 

Whats's been the toughest part?

Getting past misconceptions, like “technology and nature are opposed”, the environment is some place “‘out there”, and “new, complicated ways are superior to old, simple ones”. Once kids have the experience of interacting directly with the world — whether it is holding a chicken, designing and building a rain garden, or growing their own food — they don't need to be further convinced that sustainability can be fun.

 

On a daily basis, the benefit is kids reconnecting with nature by caring for animals, growing food, composting, harvesting water, etc. Long-term, I hope that the habits they develop will create a generation of systems-based thinkers and designers.

 

The facts are clear; the story needs to change. Rather than presenting sustainable living as a mere lifestyle — or worse, as giving things up – the story has to be about opportunity, creativity and community. In other words, it has to be about doing more good rather than doing less bad.

Chris Brooks with two small sheep on leashes in a school parking lot.

We took so many great photos for this piece, we couldn't include them all! See more photos of Chris and his students.

 

To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to sustainability@austintexas.gov.

Sustainable Austin Blog
Feb 21, 2018 - 04:08 pm CST

City of Austin "Waste Not" Challenge Winner: Sarah Seidel

Photo of Sarah Seidel with a green background.

City of Austin employees recently competed against each other in a week-long "Waste Not" challenge. The challenge tracks "green" actions taken by participants, and is done through our Rethink/ app. In the end, Sarah Seidel with Austin Public Health claimed the top spot — by only one point! We asked Sarah a few questions about how the challenge went for her. Here's what she had to say.

What was your favorite part about competing in the challenge?

My favorite part was being able to share all the different ways throughout the day that I practice green living. I’ve made a personal and household commitment to doing so many of the things in the app, but I’ve also tried to institute the practices on a larger scale for the condo complex we live in. As HOA manager there, I’ve implemented composting, native and drought resistant landscaping, single stream and hazardous waste recycling collection, etc.

At the office, Janice Savengrith (5th place winner) and I tried to document some of the ways employees are encouraged to “waste not”. For example, our kitchen has reusable mugs, cups, plates, bowls, and silverware; we have a CFL and battery recycling bin; every cubicle or office has a recycling bin; and we have water bottle refill stations to encourage people to bring and use refillable water bottles.

What obstacles did you face while competing in the challenge?

It’s time consuming to document things you do all the time without thinking (i.e. every time you recycle, compost, bring your lunch, use reusable silverware, and pick up dog waste)!

Anything else to add?

The app actually helped me identify some new things I hadn’t thought about doing at home, which was great!

The combined actions of all challenge participants resulted in the following:

1.4 thousand pounds CO2 saved, 344 pounds waste diverted, 1.7 thousand gallons water saved

CITY OF AUSTIN WASTE NOT CHALLENGE | Final Leaderboard

Sarah Seidel, Austin Public Health — 729 points

Albert Navarro, Austin Parks and Recreation — 728 points

Andrea Rose, Law Department — 679 points

Janice Savengrith, Austin Public Health — 602 points

Cathy Jackson, Purchasing Department — 499 points

 

Sustainable Austin Blog