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St. Margaret School, Rhode Island

St. Margaret School (SMS) and its community of students, teachers, staff and parents began our green journey together during Earth Month. For a little school in little Rhody, it is a big task to get started among the multiple priorities demanded by our individual and state economic challenges. But we know we need to train the next generation, and it begins by leveraging our community’s resources and building green awareness and solutions -- every little effort makes a big difference.

The approach we are taking is scalable and measurable little steps leading to big change. We are beginning with an awareness campaign to engage and build community that will support and sustain a green eco-system.

Our awareness campaign began with three green tactics: 1) “Slash the Trash” Initiative started with “No Trash Tuesday” -- an effort to engage and educate Pre-K to 8th graders on simple, but tangible green steps by measuring and tracking trash at lunch. They saw their impact and helped classmates identify ways to reduce their waste. Middle School was responsible for data collection -- a great project to apply their math skills to real world problems. Over the month, parents encouraged different strategies like recycling milk cartons and juice boxes, reusable sandwich containers, a Terracycle brigade for chip bags and a green wall to introduce new RRR strategies and charts to track their efforts. Kids looked forward to weighing their trash which ultimately lead to approximately a 40% decrease.

2) “GreenKeeper” newsletter was created to raise awareness of efforts to inform and green our community. The newsletters provided community and web resources, quick facts and every day tips to engage parents and staff to support the children and advance the green initiatives at school. The newsletter went out via email once a week in April, and will continue into next year.

3) Through the University of Rhode Island Seed program, we were able to obtain 250 packets of flower and vegetable seeds for our “Seeding Change” strategy. We decided to send a packet home with each student and staff member at the end of the year along with tips and resources to a green summer to begin to sow the seeds of the SMS green roadmap.

We realize we are at the very early stages of this effort. We discovered a lot of waste, uncovered recycling bins filled with supplies under desks and in closets, created detailed recycle signs, parents got engaged in dialogues, kids debated what was trash, and administration began larger operational discussions. In a relatively short period of time, we started the necessary dialogue and that was success to us.

Next year, the school hopes to expand its impact into the neighborhood and parish to continue to build awareness and solutions for a sustainable future. We also hope to initiate energy and environmental strategies that provide more efficiencies and cost savings. But most importantly we hope to build a green conscious community and generation that will help us build sustainable solutions.