‘Greening’ of Hamtramck can start with school students

(Editor-at-Large Walter Wasacz writes a weekly column on life in Hamtramck.)

By Walter Wasacz

Faithful readers of Street Life might recall that last week’s column dealt with my personal experience with cleaning trash and pulling weeds around my house and in the neighborhood where I live.

For those who missed it, the gist was that cleaning up after our own properties is a given in today’s DIY world. But another thread in the column alluded to getting school-aged children turned on to keeping their community tidy and litter free.

There is an attempt nationwide to get schools and kids thinking green and clean. That means getting them involved in a recycle and reuse culture, as opposed to one where disposability and waste rule.

And there is a growing list of examples of this out there. Here are a few programs already active not far from here that have a running start on this initiative.

The Michigan Green Schools program for Oakland County began in 2005 as a grassroots initiative at Hartland High School in Livingston County. This effort resulted in Gov. Granholm signing Public Act 146 into law in May 2006.

Oakland County became involved with this program in the 2007-2008 school year, and awarded the Michigan Green School designation to 45 public and private schools during the first year. Oakland County has more schools participating in the governor’s initiative than any other county in the state.

In 2008-2009 Oakland County partnered with Oakland Schools and more than doubled the number and awarded the Michigan Green School designation to 98 public and private schools. Thirty-two of those schools attained the higher designation, the Emerald status. I couldn’t find numbers for last year, but for the 2009-2010 school year Oakland Schools pledged to double that amount. So it’s clearly, green is growing.

The Michigan Green Schools Program encourages public and private schools to participate in environmentally friendly and energy savings activities. Unfortunately, schools in Wayne County have some catching up to do. But that’s not to say schools in Hamtramck can’t take a leadership role and jump to the front of the pack.

Here’s how the award levels break down:

• A school achieving 10 of the 20 listed activities below can apply to be designated a Michigan Green School;

• A school achieving 15 of the listed activities can apply to be designated a Michigan Emerald School.

• A school completing 20 of the listed activities can apply to be designated a Michigan Evergreen School.

Here’s the list of activities for schools to get awards from the Michigan Green Schools program.

1. The school recycles paper and reuses its magazines and newspapers.

2. The school has adopted an endangered species animal from one of several organizations and posted a picture of the animal in the main traffic area.

3. The school media center updates its print and non-print ecological materials regularly.

4. The school has a composting project with daily scraps from the cafeteria.

5. The school hosts a visit by an ecological spokesperson, a representative of the Sierra Club, an endangered animal species show or a similar presentation.

6. The school has a birdhouse habitat project.

7. The school has a native Michigan plant garden project with native plants.

8. The school has solar power presentations or experiments, such as a solar cookout. A wind project may be substituted.

9. Classes do energy audits of their classrooms and make improvements, such as placing film on windows, caulking windows or using kits to make windows more energy efficient.

10. The school has a printer cartridge and cell phone recycling program and selects a cartridge company which pays the school for the cartridges.

11.The school recycles batteries and has a designated representative to return them to an appropriate recycling program.

12. The school teaches units on alternative fuels energy including ethanol, switch grass and soy.

13. The school observes Earth Day.

14. Art classes at the school have a poster contest to support ecology concerns and a school wide display in conjunction with Earth Day activities.

15. School science classes have an assignment to do several home energy improvements such as turning down hot water heaters, installing home window insulation kits, clean coils on home refrigerators and put in draft guards.

16. The school has an ecology club, whose activities include such suggested activities as helping senior citizens make their homes more energy efficient.

17. The school’s classes visit internet sites where clicking saves rainforest habitat.

18. The school implements a tree planting program with at least ten seedlings which can be acquired free from a number of organizations, including Michigan United Conservation Club. The trees are placed in north and west building exposures to help conserve energy.

19. The school has established a recycling program for CDs and DVDs.

20. The school has a study unit on environmental health and issues facing the Great Lakes or participates in one of the many programs to help maintain the quality of the Great Lakes.

21. The school initiates a school door draft guard project. These are placed at the exterior classroom doors and can be sold at school events to help educate the public of this easy energy saving device.

22. A unit on invasive species in the Midwest is presented. Solutions that ordinary citizens can participate in are implemented.

23. Students hold a letter writing campaign to local officials about an environmental issue.

24. School raises $100 to go to a fund for all participating Green Schools. Each year land will be bought and donated to a Michigan state park or state forest.

25. The school keeps an active bulletin board or display case on the environmental news and what environmental activities the school is working on with pictures.

A doable goal for our community might be to have Hamtramck kids participate in America Recycles Day on Nov. 15. That might be the perfect launch for getting involved in the Michigan Green Schools program.
America Recycles Day is dedicated to promoting the social, environmental and economic benefits of recycling and buying recycled products. The goal of the campaign is to increase the purchase of recycled content products and recycling throughout North America.

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