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Environmental Conciousness

It seems the hip thing to do nowadays is go green. Most everyone is interested in pursuing a more sustainable way of life. Many businesses and organizations have also developed an environmental conscience. Leading the way in Buffalo Grove is Adlai E. Stevenson High School, whose Green Committee is doing all it can to ensure the high school’s carbon footprint is as small as possible.

The Green Committee was created in 2007 with a purpose “to examine and implement strategies that will reduce the school’s environmental impact.” In order to fulfill this purpose, the original 16-member committee established six goals.

1. Increase awareness and participation in green initiatives.
2. Reduce kilowatt burn by five percent per fiscal year.
3. Increase the amount of recycled waste by 50 percent over the next 12 months.
4. Reduce the amount of paper used and the number of copies made by 10 percent over the next year.
5. Reduce natural gas consumption by five percent over the next fiscal year.
6. Reduce the number of fossil fuel vehicles on campus by 10 percent over the next fiscal year.

Though the first goal will be ongoing—there can never be enough people who know about the green initiatives at SHS—it is also one of the easiest to attain. “The students are our biggest advocates,” remarks Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark S. Michelini. “It’s their planet we’re attempting to save.”

Teachers have also been integral in spreading the word about the school’s “Green Revolution,” even before the committee was formally created. “Gloria Huntoon, one of our art teachers, has been instrumental in creating the SAVE Club that does Earth Week and Recycle Week,” relates Michelini. “Don Carmichael, Dave Wilms and Jason Carlson, part of our AP Environmental Studies team, have been instrumental in advancing our green initiative long before our Green Committee.”

“Stevenson has always been green,” says Michelini. In fact, SHS earned the Energy Star Award from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, six years before the creation of the committee. Stevenson became the second school district in Illinois to attain this honor. “In designing each addition,” Michelini continues, “the Board of Education has always considered green alternatives. Take one look at the building, and you will see the use of natural lighting, energy-efficient windows and green roofs. On the inside you will see new energy-efficient boilers and chillers, plus smart building technologies that automate the heating and lighting.”

The integration of more energy-efficient technology on the high school campus is also directly related to the Green Committee’s second and fifth goals—reducing kilowatt burn and reducing natural gas consumption, respectively. According to Michelini, the school has already “cut” kilowatt and natural gas burn and is “working on a matrix to measure cause and affect.”

Though lessening the school’s use of natural gas is not exactly something students can readily take part in, it is very easy for them to help reduce kilowatt burn on campus. Turning off lights when exiting a room and unplugging certain appliances when not in use are simple yet effective ways for everyone to help the environment.

The Green Committee’s third goal is also simple for students and faculty to help attain, but it makes a world of difference. Recycling is a staple of the green movement, and it has already been a success at Stevenson. Since the creation of the committee, SHS has increased its recyclable content by 32 percent, a marked improvement from previous years. Instead of dumpsters, the school now has dual recycling compactors, but that is not enough to make a difference. “The real challenge is getting the organization to recycle more,” explains Michelini. “Physically, we’ve made huge changes. Now it’s up to the people who make up the organization to embrace these changes.”

Everyone who visits the Stevenson campus is encouraged to use the green-topped recycling bins found throughout the school and the blue bins for paper recycling in the classrooms and office areas.

Though recycling is an important way to help the environment, using less paper is even better. The Green Committee’s fourth goal addresses this, and already, many initiatives have been put into place to attain it. In its first session, the committee calculated that each student, faculty member and member of the staff of SHS uses a box of paper a year. That equals 5,000 sheets of paper per individual—a staggering 25 million for the entire school. To significantly reduce this number, Stevenson has made some substantial changes—including converting its printed “Minuteman” monthly publication to the “e-Minuteman,” a weekly online newsletter. This change alone will decrease paper usage by an estimated three million sheets a year, which translates roughly to around 1,000 trees.

The Green Committee’s sixth goal is not as easy to measure as paper usage or amounts of recycling, but the school has taken important steps to reducing the number of fossil fuel vehicles on campus. Until recently, the school had no way of keeping track of the number of vehicles that were on campus daily. “With the cooperation of the villages of Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove,” Michelini explains, “we have just installed vehicle counters on our campus. For the first time, we will know exactly how many vehicles will come on campus.”

That is only the beginning, though. “Next,” Michelini continues, “we’ll have to determine some strategies to reduce that number. After that, we will implement those strategies, and finally, we will count vehicles again.”

Although Kermit the Frog may think it is not easy being green, Stevenson High School shows that it can be. The Green Committee’s goals are attainable, and all members of the Buffalo Grove community can help to meet them. Community members are invited to sit on the now 46-member committee to offer ideas and support the great work SHS is doing to help the environment. As board member Merv Roberts is quoted as saying, “Being green is a journey, not a destination.”

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