Michigan Green Schools Program

Start them young. That’s the thought here, at least, with the
Michigan‘s
Green Schools Initiative, an environmental education initiative. With a push
toward more energy saving, environmentally friendly, and green living ideas and
practices, well, it just makes sense to get the kiddies involved. After all,
they are the future, as Whitney Houston so aptly sang in 1986.

The program began with a grassroots initiative at HartlandHigh Schoolin LivingstonCounty in 2005 that eventually grew into
a state wide program that Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law in May of
2006. Since then The Michigan Green Schools Initiative has grown to 11 counties
with 124 schools participating in the 2007-2008 school year.

And here, in OaklandCounty, the Michigan
Green Schools Initiative has been something of a hit. Out of all the counties
in the state the OC had far and away the most designated “green” schools
last school year with 45, and in March when all the applications are submitted
the county is expecting to lead the pack again with somewhere between 50 and 60
schools, says Whitney Calio, the environmental program coordinator for the
Oakland County Waste Resource Management department.

OaklandCounty got involved with
this program in the 2007-2008 school year with those inaugural 45 schools. A
recognition ceremony was held where each GreenSchoolwas presented with a certificate and official green school flag.

The program has 20 listed environmental and energy saving activities
in which public or private schools need to participate in at least 10 to apply
for “green” school designation. The school can go one step further,
however, participating in 15 or more of the 20 act ivies and apply for the MichiganEmeraldSchooldesignation. The schools get a certificate signed by Granholm spotlighting
their effort toward a cleaner environment as well as a flag to fly for the
school. Calio says that the schools have also seen a savings in cost due to
their energy conserving efforts.

Within OaklandCounty, the Waste
Resource Management (WRM) has been designated the agency to manage the program
and review and approve the applications. 
WRM and Calio are working with Oakland Schools to promote the program
this year.

Some of the 20 points include basic recycling of paper and
plastic, as well as batteries, cell phones, and print cartridges, or reusing
old magazines for projects. Some more advanced points are participating in
energy saving activities such as learning about solar energy and learning about
home energy conservation methods. A full list of the 20 points can be found
here.

Schools from kindergarten to seniors can participate. Calio
says that it’s mostly elementary schools that tend participate but that’s
because there are so many. As the kids get older they take more of a lead
effort through ecology clubs whereas the elementary and some of the middle schools
are lead by teachers and faculty. Regardless of the school or the age of the
student, the program has been a success, Calio says.

“The students and teachers are very enthusiastic about program,”
she says. “It’s been really positive for everybody. And the good thing is
that the students take these practices home and do them there.”

The applications for this school year are due to Oakland
County Waste Resource Management by March 17, 2009.  Schools working toward green school
designation are asked to contact the Waste Resource Management office at wrmd@oakgov.com.  For more information, visit our website at www.oakgov.com/waste/green_schools.  There is also a new statewide website at www.michigangreenschools.us.