New Jersey Schools Ride the Green Wave for a Brighter Future

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Executive Director, Sustainable Jersey

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Sustainable Jersey for Schools 2018 special awards announced

sj2Sustainable Jersey for Schools celebrated the 111 schools that achieved Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification in 2018 at an awards event attended by over 250 teachers, principals, green team volunteers, school board members and staff. In addition to the newly certified schools, we announced the three schools and one school district that received 2018 Sustainable Jersey for Schools special awards.

Readington Township Public Schools Saves Energy and Costs

Readington Township Public Schools in Hunterdon County received the 2018 Sustainability Makes $ense Award that recognizes a district that has made exemplary progress in sustainability resulting in cost savings to the school district. Dr. Jonathan Hart, the superintendent of Readington Schools, said, “We are very proud of this accomplishment. This recognition affirms the Board of Education’s commitment to the work of the Green Committee and demonstrates the hard work and dedication of our students and staff to the district’s sustainability efforts.”

Five years ago, the District took the ambitious step to create an Energy Efficiency Program to serve its four schools and approximately 1,700 students. With the combination of operational and behavioral changes initiated by staff and students, the district has reduced its energy use. The estimate of avoided costs, based on the usage savings over the five years that the program ran, is $421,000.

Jodi Bettermann serves as the energy efficiency coordinator for the Readington Township Public School District where she administers the district’s behavior-based Energy Conservation Program. Her work to achieve energy savings through changes in culture, behavior and decision-making is delivering measurable results that serve as a model for New Jersey school districts.

Jodi said, “Behavioral changes are the unsung heroes of our results. Turning off lights and electronics, setting moderate heating and cooling setpoints and operating our building efficiently all added up to big energy savings.” Students are actively involved in the energy efficiency program. The green teams in each school participate in the program and the middle school students can also participate in an Energy Club, which monitors classrooms to ensure lights and electronics are turned off at the end of the day as well as investigates renewable energy sources.

Green Tiger Team at Three Bridges Elementary School

Tsj3hree Bridges Elementary School of Readington Township Public School District in Hunterdon County achieved the 2018 Sustainability Champion award with an impressive 605 Sustainable Jersey certification points. This is the second time that the school has earned the award; the elementary school also accomplished this distinction in 2015, the inaugural year of the program. “I am so proud of the entire Three Bridges and Readington Township communities for joining together and working so hard on all of our sustainability efforts,” said Kristen Higgins, principal of Three Bridges Elementary School. “I particularly want to thank our students for doing their part to save the earth with such energy and enthusiasm.”

The staff at Three Bridges School lead a Go Green program dedicated to promoting a sustainable culture at the school and educating the students about being good stewards of the environment. The students refer to themselves as the Green Tiger Team since the school’s mascot is a tiger.

Thirty-four students signed up for the green team. Part of their job, as a green team member, is to be an energy patrol officer and help perform monthly energy audits. The green team members, led by their advisor, Tiffany Barca, would perform monthly surprise audits when the students were at specials, recess or lunch. They would check to see if the lights in the classroom were turned off. Students would leave “WOW” stickers for when the lights were turned off and “Oops” stickers for when the lights were left on.

The students completed ten energy audits for the 2017-2018 school year. Three classrooms received ten WOW stickers and the reward was an extra recess with Principal Higgins. This contest helped promote saving energy in the school building. The green team members made posters and signs both on the computer and by hand to help remind students to turn off the lights and save energy. The Go Green program continues to encourage a culture of sustainability at the school.

Long Branch Middle School Rides the Green Wave of Sustainability

sj4For a second year in a row, Long Branch Middle School of Long Branch School District in Monmouth County achieved a Sustainability Champion award. James Brown, the principal at Long Branch Middle School explained, “The Long Branch Middle School students and staff ride the green wave of sustainability in order to create a green future for our community!”

The Long Branch Middle School Garden provides a hands-on learning environment. This is the fourth year of the garden and the school added a greenhouse to increase production. The crops are sold at the local farmers market, donated to local food pantries and used in the school’s student Bistro 63 café run by special needs students. Bistro 63 prepares freshly made soups and sandwiches using produce from the garden for the middle school staff while teaching students valuable life skills needed to become sustainable adults. Students in two classes at Long Branch Middle School are getting a taste of the restaurant business from working at Bistro 63.

Long Branch Middle School students promote sustainability at school, home and in the community. The students also help clean up beaches; an effort that resulted in the group beginning a #StrawFreeinLB campaign. The school no longer uses straws in the cafeteria and the students are working with local businesses to eliminate plastic, or use alternative, straws. The middle school students educate business owners of the dangers straws pose to marine life. The students made the initial visit to the business to provide information and are now working on securing commitments.

Jackson Liberty High School Conserves Energy

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Jackson Liberty High School of Jackson School District in Ocean County achieved 355 points and is the recipient of the 2018 Sustainability Champion Award. Jackson Liberty High School Principal Geoff Brignola said, “Jackson Liberty High School is honored to be the recipient of this award because it recognizes not just one achievement, but a collective effort of so many people committed to being responsible to our environment. Here at Liberty, programs like our trout farm, our efforts to draw public attention to conservation issues, and simple things like a commitment to re-using art supplies are part of a district-wide culture of conservation.”

Liberty High School has an onsite ground-mounted 1.6 MW solar array that helps power the school facility. This system replaces approximately thirty percent of the school’s electrical use. Liberty High School also has a geothermal system. Geothermal technologies draw upon the energy stored in the earth to control school building temperatures. As a result, geothermal systems use less energy than a conventional heating system.

To date, 310 school districts and 800 schools are taking part in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program. The district participation has grown to include 53 percent of all New Jersey school districts. From energy audits to integrating sustainability into student learning and boosting recycling efforts; the past year has been exceptional. Over 3,938 sustainability actions were completed by schools and districts participating in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program and over $16 million in grants have been awarded to schools and school districts since the program’s conception in 2014.

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