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Punahou named #1 Green School in America for 2006

In their list of the nation's top "Green" Schools, independant environmental and health newsletter "The Green Guide" placed Punahou School at the top. http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc.mhtml?i=115&s=toptenschools

The Top 10 Green Schools in the U.S.: 2006
by P.W. McRandle and Sara Smiley Smith

The pressure is on for kids to achieve high marks from a very early age, with college choices and future salaries hanging in the balance. But many schools are failing to prepare children on two fronts—by not providing them healthy environments in which to do their best, and by neglecting to integrate the environment into their curriculum, particularly in terms of outdoors learning and using the natural world as a teaching tool. A healthy school building is no small matter when nationwide asthma attacks result in 14 million missed school days each year and exposure to peanuts and tree nuts can prove fatal. Beyond eliminating allergens and chemical contaminants, schools need to better the conditions in which kids perform, offering more daylight (shown to boost test scores when glare and noise are eliminated), providing healthy meals, and cycling out stale air.

At the same time, parents, teachers and administrators are asking themselves if our model for teaching is so good, why are the people graduating from our premiere educational institutions making such shortsighted decisions about the world? By preparing children to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the natural world, schools provide our best opportunity in the long run to solve problems such as global warming. The green schools in this year's survey ensure students are grounded in the fundamentals and expand children's relationships to the wider, natural world. Whether it be maintaining lo'i in Hawaii, stocking salmon in a Northwest stream, or mapping the depths of Wisconsin lakes, these schools help build a child's sense of place in the world that goes beyond their SAT scores.

Healthy Minds in Healthy Schools
The indoor environment is critical when it comes both to improving academic performance and maintaining students' health. Whether at school or at home, children face cancer risks from breathing hazardous volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that are every bit as serious as those incurred from breathing second hand smoke, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives (in press). Formaldehyde, which can offgas from plywood and pressboard furnishings, and 1,4-dichlorobenzene, found in mothballs and deodorizers, posed the greatest cancer risks, according to measurements from air samplers worn by teens in New York and Los Angeles. But by adhering to green construction standards, such as those of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), schools can remove the worst offenders from the classroom. Formaldehyde emitting particle boards, for example, can be replaced by no-VOC wheatboard. Mold reduction and use of green cleaning products will improve indoor air quality and help eliminate triggers for asthmatic attacks.

Proper nutrition is also imperative for children's health, especially given that 15 percent of kids aged six to 11 are overweight. While soft drink manufacturers have agreed to remove their products from school vending machines by 2009, many schools are choosing to keep soft drink and candy (and in some cases vending machines themselves) off campus. Some are taking the further steps of offering organic and fresher, local foods in their cafeterias, as well as organic gardens for kids to plant and harvest. At the Michael E. Capuano Child Center (see #7 below), teachers not only discuss nutrition in class, but sit with pre-kindergarteners at lunch to encourage them to eat vegetables and fruit.

In some cases, states are stepping in to mandate greener policies. New York requires schools to use green cleaners, while Kentucky has banned sales of non-cafeteria foods on campus and limits the fat and sugar content of drinks sold in elementary schools. And New Jersey requires that all new schools be built according to LEED standards.

Green design and construction can also increase natural light, which saves energy and improves children's test scores, according to studies done in Seattle, Washington; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Capistrano, California. And many schools save energy on the cheap by opening windows rather than switching on the A/C. "Getting the kids involved is key," says Karen Cozie, mother of a nine year old and 12 year old who've gone to Washburn Elementary (see #8 below), noting that they are developing greener habits like recycling paper and turning off lights in empty classrooms.

Saving the Earth, Boosting Grades
As small farms continue to be absorbed by larger ones and as suburbs swell, Americans are losing contact with their natural environs. Yet people have "an inherent affinity for the natural world," noted Stephen Kellert, Ph.D, professor of social ecology at Yale in Building For Life (2005, Island Press, $34.95). Kellert adds that this affinity, which he calls "biophilia," is a "weak genetic tendency whose full and functional development depends on sufficient experience, learning and cultural support," all of which schools are in an ideal position to provide. In giving students the chance to have an immediate impact on their surroundings through wetland restoration projects, removing invasive plants such as ivy and blackberry bushes, and similar projects, the green schools below are not only improving their physical environment but also developing students' intellectual, emotional and physical capacities. Kellert notes that "young people need to engage the natural world repeatedly and in multiple ways to mature effectively."

At some of our top schools, parents have trouble prying their kids away from the land. Susan Englander, whose 19-year-old son Jacob attended One World Montessori (see #10 below), said her son's first choice for a college was Deep Springs, a two-year college and a ranch, which requires students to get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows and make their own butter before attending courses.

The Criteria
To update our 2005 list of green schools, this April The Green Guide sent out invitations to over 2,500 schools to participate in its 2006 green schools survey, garnering in-depth responses from 67 of the most environmentally-committed K-12's in the U.S. The survey covered 10 categories, listed below, with up to 10 points awarded per category, for a maximum of 100 points.

1. Green Building and Construction: We asked administrators if the school was built or remodeled using LEED guidelines, if it received certification and, if so, what level (standard, silver, gold or platinum). Seventeen schools were built—and three remodeled—according to green standards. We also checked if the green factors below were considered:
a) Site Location
b) Indoor Air Quality
c) Energy Efficiency
d) Material Selection
e) Waste Management

2. Electricity Supply: Almost 40 percent of U.S. emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) comes from electric utilities. We asked about use of renewable energy to reduce CO2 output, specifically whether schools had on-site or off-site solar, wind, hydroelectric or other sources of energy. On-site solar proved the most popular; eight schools possessed it in some form.

3. Food: Here we asked whether schools offered organic food and relied on local growers, as well as whether they reused dishes and silverware. Twelve schools served organic food, while 18 had committed to using local sources. We also asked if the school allowed vending machines and, if so, what they contained (candy, chips, and soda on one hand, or juice, water, healthy snacks, and fruit on the other). Seventeen schools in our survey did not allow vending machines on campus and only seven allowed candy to be sold in them.

4. Recycling: Schools indicated if they had a recycling program and which materials, ranging from aluminum to ink cartridges, and electronic equipment to plastic, were recycled. Almost all schools surveyed had recycling programs covering many of the materials listed.

5. Procurement Policies: Institutions that commit to purchasing recycled, low-toxicity goods both help build the marketplace and maintain air quality and other green standards. We asked if the school had an environmental procurement policy and, if so, which factors it took into account. Factors included recycled content, life cycle analysis, energy use, water use, toxicity, length of usable life. We also left space for the school to mention other considerations. Twenty-three schools had environmental procurement policies, with recycled content and energy use the most frequently cited factors. We also asked if the schools looked for Green Seal certification for office and other products (only five did) as well as take-back programs for electronic equipment (17 here). Lastly, we considered methods of reducing paper usage, such as e-mailing newsletters and assignments.

6. Transportation: Recognizing that many of the new "box" schools lie some distance from city centers, adding considerable commute times, we asked about alternative options for faculty, students and staff, including carpooling, bicycle lanes and public transport. Since inhaling diesel fumes can damage lungs and trigger asthmatic episodes, we also checked if schools had a policy to prevent buses idling on school grounds—13 schools had such policies.

7. Environmental Curriculum: Connecting students' intellectual and emotional lives with their environs is one of the most significant outcomes a green education can have. As Stephen Kellert noted at a recent green schools conference, "the human brain is tied to sensory features and patterns in the natural environment" offering the chance to enrich the learning experience immeasurably by engaging kids in studies out of doors. Here we asked schools if they had an environmental curriculum and if so, what exactly it covered; almost two-thirds of respondents did have one.

8. Environmental Contaminants: This was the most detailed portion of the survey, with questions concentrating on threats to indoor air quality. We asked about the elimination of pesticides and whether the least toxic practices, known as "integrated pest management," are used indoors and outdoors. Twenty-two schools responded positively. Use of green cleaners reduces the exposure of staff, students and faculty to chlorine, ammonia and other caustic chemicals. Nineteen schools reported using them; half of those respondents relied on a third-party certifier like Green Seal to ensure the cleaners' eco-friendly status. Because of the widespread threats posed by lead in paint, asbestos, mold and arsenic in pressure-treated wood used in playground equipment, we checked on management policies for each of these contaminants. Finally, we asked about routine monitoring of air and water quality.

9. School Green Spaces: Flower and vegetable gardens, trails and woodland areas offer students unique learning opportunities, ranging from wildlife observation to planting and harvesting their own organic produce in "edible schoolyard" programs. We asked about varieties of green spaces, as well as landscaping with native plants (which helps reduce water and pesticide use). While 25 schools do prioritize using native plants, only four had edible schoolyards programs.

10. Environmental Quality: Once respondents had completed the questions above covering the range of environmental concerns, they were asked to rate their schools' overall commitment to environmental quality, from low to very high. Thirteen respondents selected low or moderate and 18 high to very high, while 36 did not respond.

The Top 10 Schools
On this year's list, our top 10 actually contains 11 schools, owing to two tied scores in the eighth and tenth places. Six of these 11 are public, indicating that environmental improvements are within reach of all schools, public or private. Nine of our previous year's top 10 are within this year's top 20; a lack of survey data accounts for the only missing school from 2005.

1) 1st Place: Punahou School (private), Honolulu, HI; score: 77.4
"Living on an island," says Dave White, seventh-grade science teacher at Punahou's Case Middle School, "we've got to feel the urgency now." Resources such as water, fuel, forests, landfill space and food, are all limited. And as White notes, in Hawaii, the rules for preservation and land use are a little different from those in practice elsewhere—Hawaii's environment contains a mix of native and exotic species. The same can be said of Case, from its waterless urinals to its photovoltaic arrays, the school mixes the commonplace with the unusual, offering students opportunities to test their limits, while ensuring a rigorous education in the fundamentals. Built according to LEED standards and likely to receive a gold level of certification, Case Middle School is just one part of the 75-acre Punahou campus, an institution now in its 165th year. Healthy eating is promoted across the entire campus, housing classes K through 12, and candy is kept out of vending machines. Green cleaning products and the elimination of pesticides indoors and out help maintain healthy breathing spaces. As for building and renovation, all future construction on Punahou's campus will be done to LEED standards as well. And as part of Punahou's ongoing environmental efforts, last year (2005-2006), the school held a school-wide summit on sustainability. At the four-day summit, students, teachers and staff developed food, energy, water, waste and transportation initiatives for the school to implement; results will be carefully tracked over the next five years.

For practical experience and community service, students can work on the Hawaiian plant nursery—White's "thing," as he calls it. Kids propagate and share with the community native Hawaiian hibiscus (Kokio ke'o ke'o), Ti plants, Kalo ("taro" root), milo seedlings and Ma'o (a Hawaiian cotton that's so pest resistant that mainland cotton growers are trying to crossbreed it with standard cotton). The lessons take root. Says parent Melissa Benjamin, "we drove by the Ala Wai Canal, and my older daughter said, ‘Look, there are the plants that we planted to help clean up the canal!'"


P.W. McRandle is senior research editor for the Green Guide. He has written numerous other articles for the newsletter.
Sarah Smiley Smith is "a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies under the supervision of John Wargo, Ph. D., professor of environmental risk analysis." (http://www.aredi.org/cd_2391.aspx)


"The Green Guide and www.thegreenguide.com are published by The Green Guide Institute (TGGI), an independent research and information organization for consumers. Dubbed the “green living source for today’s conscious consumer” by Elle magazine, The Green Guide is an invaluable resource for men and women, from young adults to grandparents, striving for a healthy and “greener” lifestyle. It is TGGI’s vision that one day The Green Guide will be, for millions of consumers, the go-to source of information about practical everyday, environmentally responsible and health-minded product choices and actions. Our goal is to ensure that The Green Guide and www.thegreenguide.com serve as your most practical, reliable, and trustworthy content source for product choices and daily practices that are better for health and the environment."- from the "about us" link on the website


These are the provided Resources:

Earth in Mind: On Education, the Environment and the Human Prospects by David Orr, Ph.D. (2004, Island Press, $19.95)

Deirdre Imus Environmental Center's green cleaning institutional product line: www.dienviro.com/index1.aspx?BD=17866

For info on eliminating pesticides from schools, see www.grassrootsinfo.org

Healthy Schools Network: www.healthyschools.org

High Performance Schools New Jersey: www.hpsnj.org

USGBC LEED program: www.usgbc.org/leed

Wisconsin's Green and Healthy Schools Program: www.dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/greenschools/

When: Site posted August 15th, 2006

Because this newsletter (the Green Guide) named Punahou the #1 Green School, not a different newsletter.

You: Piper Grosswendt, 12th grade
Geography: Punahou
Type: Opinions/Viewpoints