Back in 2010, The Saklan School's Buildings and Grounds Committee decided to dedicate time to explore what efforts we could take to become a "green" school. Hillary Conlon spearheaded and lead this committee with both current and alumni parents; Paula Shadle, John Lawicki, Stuart Darby, Lorraine Williams, Lori Anders, and I, to create the Green Committe at Saklan. After much research and investigation, the committee decided excitedly upon a "green" inititative program introduced by Lori Anders. This program, The Green Flag Schools Program, has the intent to help schools become healthier places to work and learn, for both the environment and those who spend their days there, by creating intentional change. And through this process, we have improved our school, saved money and have been recognized for our efforts!
The program has four main project areas to work on, these include: integrating non-toxic cleaning products, improving the schools recycling program, investigating and determining the indoor air quality at the school, and creating an integrated pest management program. Each program area starts off with a survey, to see where our school initially stands on the initiative. Then investigations into ways to improve our project area take place, and then decisions are made to implement a healthier, greener improvement for our school. Once this process has occurred, the school receives a patch to place on our “Green Flag” showing we have created a strategy to improve our school. Currently, Saklan has implemented improvements to the first three of these project areas.
In 2012 we started the program. With Mr. Javier’s help, Saklan has integrated the use of non-toxic cleaning products into our classrooms and work areas when we switched to the Clea hygiene products. They offered us Envirox: Concentrate 118 cleaning products for counters, rug cleaning, and lunch tables. This has removed toxic, harsh chemical from the classroom, and has given us a healthy alternative. Hillary Conlon was instrumental in writing up the policy for our Board to approve and to guarantee Envirox' use moving forward at our school for years to come. This has not only created a healthier environment for our students and teachers- but also has saved us money. Additionally, to test its worth, the 7th grade that year studied bacteria in biology; they compared bacteria growth before and after table swabs on our lunch tables to compare the effectiveness of the cleaner and found it cleaned as well as Clorox wipes.
Next, we worked to improve our school's recycling program. We reached out to the county’s waste management and learned of their school composting program. That year we focused on implementing composting into our program throughout the school. Earth Day 2013 focused on the program, and the whole school learned what items fit in which category. Since then, we also have implemented a few other recycling initiatives using TerraCycle, a recycling company which focused on recycling hard-to-recycle waste, and now have collecting sites for: Capri sun pouches, writing utensils, scotch tape roll cores, and batteries.
Through this Green Flag initiative, we have been able to decrease our dumpster size, saving us $2000 a year in landfill costs, and we have redirected 62% of our compost, recycling and yard waste out of the trash. This has won us, through the WasterBusters Program, a $750 award for our efforts. However, this year we are on track to redirect over 75% out of the landfill!
This summer we secured our third patch, Indoor Air Quality. To do this, we checked and created a plan to make sure all rooms have no mold or broken ceiling tiles, had/have any sinks or drains snaked immediately to not allow mold to grow, looked at the flow of air from the vents, guaranteed our air filters get changed regularly, and checked our cleaning crew’s vacuum to see it had HEPA filters, which are better for catching particulates and allergens.
For our last patch, we will be creating an integrated pest management plan this year. We are excited to finish this process and earn all 4 patches. You can check out our flag in the breezeway with our patches sewn on (additional thanks to the Conlon family and Stazi Lopez for their sewing ability).