Consider this: If all 7 billion people on this planet consumed energy, resources, and materials at the rate we do in the United States, we would need 4 earths to accommodate that level of consumption and waste. In other words, it’s unsustainable. A lot of people have been trying to tell us this for quite some time now. Little by little the message is beginning to sink in. Across the country individuals and families, businesses and organizations are taking measures to reduce their ecological footprint. Notre Dame Prep is proud to be in the forefront of this movement, achieving official “Green School” status in 2011. Now, you can’t just strategically position a couple of recycling bins in the cafeteria and declare yourself a green school. You have to earn the designation, bestowed on a school by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) and only after demonstrating a commitment to environmental issues and education. It is a three-year process involving a number of significant requirements and the establishment of several educational initiatives. The Green School effort at NDP is spearheaded by English teacher, Lydia Bulavinetz and Molly Macek, a young mother and the upper school science department chair. They were inspired to see NDP go green after attending a teachers’ conference sponsored by MAEOE several years ago. Ms. Masek described the Green School certification process to me.
“Certification as a green school requires maintaining environmental best practices throughout the school including: waste reduction, energy conservation, habitat restoration, and the creation of outdoor structures for learning,” she explained.
The program takes a holistic approach requiring the incorporation of lessons in conservation and sustainability into the school curriculum. In addition, the students participate in several environmentally related service projects throughout the year. In the past they have worked in close collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation creating oysters beds, planting trees, and restoring habitats. The Green School program inspired the students to create The Environmental Club, which organizes and sponsors additional environmentally related events throughout the school year including a week-long “Earth Day” event in April as well as the hugely successful Electronics Recycling event held annually. Ms. Masek speaks with great passion on the subject of the environment. When I asked her where that passion comes from, her answer surprised me.
“From the students,” she said. “It’s the students who are truly passionate about this issue. I’m inspired by them every day. They have so many ideas and care so much. I just help out.”
I don’t know why the answer surprised me. When I think about it, all great movements are started and maintained by the young. After all, it is their future that is at stake here. And it is the kids who remind us what we adults have forgotten: That the earth and all its resources are a gift. And we’re not the owners. We are the stewards.