Schools are our first line when it comes to setting an example to our future generations and moving toward a greener, more sustainable future. The Sustainable School searches out those institutions, no matter what the size, that are making inroads when it comes to changing and setting an example for all to follow. These schools could be implementing things like recycling programs to literally reconstructing their buildings in becoming more energy efficient, to using cleaner materials.

We are excited to discover and help showcase these institutions as they introduce themselves to students from all over the world.

First charter school-hosted microgrid in DC


In a historic first of its kind for the DMV region, Ideal Academy Public Charter Academy and DC-startup BDG Renewable Energy Development, LLC., sign a memorandum of understanding to transform the Lamond Riggs community toward a more sustainable and equitable energy future for area stakeholders, while saving Ideal Academy thousands of dollars in energy costs and direct more money toward achieving the school's mission.  

BDG will design, finance, and build a behind-the-meter solution for Ideal Academy that will strengthen the charter school and community energy security, improve reliability and resiliency of the Lamond Riggs area grid; maintain power and improve vital community services for area residents when service territory experiences widespread outages; increase alternative and renewable energy jobs and business creation that increases and diversifies community participation in the new energy economy; and saves area consumers money through community energy cooperatives.

Ideal Academy spokesperson stated: "This project provides the enabling environment to demonstrate how innovative school-centered partnerships in collaboration with utilities, governments, and education administrations at all levels will focus on training the new energy workforce for sustainable higher paying jobs; creating new science, technology, energy, and advanced manufacturing (STEAM) jobs; as well as spurring new sustainable energy entrepreneurs directly from the local community."

Sustainable Schools and Community Gardens,
Awarded $300,000


The Seeds of Change® brand, the leading producer of sustainably grown seeds and nutritious organic foods, is honored to announce the 24 recipients of the 2016 Seeds of Change® Grant Program. The recipients are comprised of 12 community garden and 12 school garden programs. Four organizations – two school gardens and two community gardens – will receive $20,000 grants and the remaining recipients will each receive $10,000 grants.

The four organizations to receive the $20,000 grants are two community gardens, Antioch Discovery Garden in Fort Smith, Ark.; and La Mesa Verde in San Jose, Calif.; and two school gardens: Friends Academy Garden in Dartmouth, Mass.; and Rockford Middle School in Rockford, Minn. The Grant ambassadors for these four organizations are awarded the opportunity to attend an organic conference and receive a personal Seeds of Change® brand garden mentor.

"It's amazing to see how communities rally behind their school and community garden initiatives and we are honored to be a part of a national mission to create more sustainable communities one seed, one plate at a time," said Andrew Cops, Marketing Director for the Seeds of Change® brand. "Our Grant Program helps enhance the environmental, economic and social well-being of gardens and farms while helping local communities bring about awareness of their sustainable initiatives."

In addition to the four $20,000 recipients, 10 school and 10 community gardens will receive $10,000 grants to support new or existing gardening and sustainable farming programs. Each award recipient has developed a program that focuses on telling the seed-to-plate story through sustainable, community-based gardening and farming programs. The following recipients were selected to receive $10,000 grants:

School Gardens

    • Bailey Bear Garden in Austin, Texas ($10,000)

    • Charles Helmers Elementary School Garden in Valencia, Calif. ($10,000)

    • Crocker Riverside Elementary's Outdoor Classroom Garden in Sacramento, Calif. ($10,000)

    • Deer Lakes School Gardens in Tarentum, Pa. ($10,000)

    • Greeley Garden in Long Island City, N.Y. ($10,000)

    • Greenport School and Community Garden in Greenport, N.Y. ($10,000)

    • Lawndale Elementary School District – Garden Program in Lawndale, Calif. ($10,000)

    • Riverside City College Community Garden in Riverside, Calif. ($10,000)

    • Riverside Middle School Garden (RMSG) in Watertown, Wis. ($10,000)

    • Spring Hill Elementary SCRATCH Garden in Huntington, W. Va. ($10,000)

Community Gardens

    • Compton Community Garden in Compton, Calif. ($10,000)

    • Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market in Pittsfield, Mass. ($10,000)

    • Lafayette Neighborhood Community Garden in Uniontown, Pa. ($10,000)

    • Livsey School Orchard in Tucker, Ga. ($10,000)

    • Real Food Rising in Salt Lake City, Utah ($10,000)

    • Rosebud Reservation's Keya Wakpala Community Garden in Mission, S.D. ($10,000)

    • Sankanac CSA in Phoenixville, Pa. ($10,000)

    • The Garden Farm in Alpharetta, Ga. ($10,000)

    • The Learning Garden at Tom Graham Park in Corpus Christi, Texas ($10,000)

    • Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainability Garden in Westport, Conn. ($10,000)

The Seeds of Change® Grant Program is funded by the brand's "1% Fund," the company's commitment to donate one percent of its net sales to support sustainable, community-based nutrition, gardening and farming programs. The 24 organizations were selected from nearly 900 applicants nationwide and funding was split to support both community and school gardens. More than 600,000 votes were cast by individuals to determine the top 50 finalists before a panel of judges evaluated those applications and selected the final award recipients.

First Community Solar Power Plant at

Grand Valley State University

Days after it closed seven Michigan coal plants, Consumers Energy today started operations at its first large-scale solar project on 17 acres at Grand Valley State University.

"The first location in our Solar Gardens program demonstrates our commitment to building a sustainable future for Michigan," said Dan Malone, Consumers Energy's senior vice president of energy resources. "We are pleased to work with Grand Valley State University to develop a new source of renewable energy that will help power homes and businesses."

The 3-megawatt solar power plant on university property is the largest community solar project in Michigan, generating up to 3 megawatts, or enough electricity to serve 600 homes. The energy provider is building a second site at Western Michigan University, which is expected to open late this summer, and is considering another location in the Lansing area.

Consumers Energy customers are supporting the development of solar energy by enrolling in the new Solar Gardens program. They can express interest and learn more about Solar Gardens online at

The energy provider has been active in developing renewable energy sources in Michigan. It operates two wind farms, one near Lake Michigan and one in the Thumb, and contracts to buy energy generated by wind, landfill gas, anaerobic digestion and hydroelectric generation.

Consumers Energy also has contracted to buy energy from a 100-megawatt wind farm under construction in Michigan's Thumb and has helped Michigan State University transition its on-campus power plant from coal to natural gas as a fuel source.

"Solar Gardens is part of our commitment to ensure that future generations in Michigan have affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy," Malone said.

Schools to Save $30 Million with Solar Parking Lots



SunEdison, Inc. (NYSE: SUNE), last week announced the signing of solar power purchase agreements (solar PPA‘s) with dozens of schools that will see solar car parking canopies constructed at each facility.

The solar PPA’s involve 25 elementary, middle, and high schools in the California unified school districts of Dixon, Downey, Duarte, Livermore and Newman Crows Landing. The arrangements will save the schools involved more than USD $30 million on energy costs over the next two decades.

As well as generating clean power, these structures will provide respite from the often harsh California sun and educational opportunities for students.

“I’m excited that we’re able to provide a hands-on experience for our students, with these solar systems we are teaching our students about one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy,” said Dr. Allan Mucerino, Duarte Unified School District’s Superintendent.

California’s School Project for Utility Rate Reduction (SPURR) assisted the districts with arranging the solar PPA’s with SunEdison.

In total, more than 7.4MW capacity will be installed across the schools. Collectively the solar power systems will generate sufficient electricity to offset more than half of all electricity used at each school and enough to power the equivalent of 1,700 Californian homes.

The positive environmental impact will be significant – more than 61,688 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided over the term of the agreement.

According to SunEdison’s Sam Youneszadeh, the company has assisted more than 150 U.S. schools in slashing their power costs; freeing up funds for other school projects and activities.

Among SunEdison’s school projects are 28 solar canopies in the Rialto Unified School District in California, with a collective capacity of 8.4 megawatts.

Other solar parking canopy projects executed by the company in the U.S. include a massive 3.2MW arrayof SunEdison solar panels at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, three systems for the City of Fremont in California;  plus government facilities in Los Angeles County.

In other recent SunEdison news, the company announced it had signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with the City of Watervliet, New York. An 868 kilowatt DC solar system will be installed under a net-metering arrangement, with the power be used in all city-owned buildings. The system will generate enough output to offset more than 83 percent of the city’s electricity usage for city-owned buildings.

The agreement  is expected to save Watervliet taxpayers more than USD $1 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.

Solar Schools Continue to Grow



SunEdison, Inc. (NYSE: SUNE) has announced it has commenced construction on a 2.8 megawatt solar power project for eight schools in the Montgomery County Public School system in the U.S state of Maryland.

The solar panel installations will collectively generate enough electricity each year to power the equivalent of more than 260 homes and will deliver approximately USD $200,000 in savings annually. Completion of the first stage is targeted for by the end of this year.

Ongoing operation and maintenance of the facilities will be performed by SunEdison Services.

We are excited about this project because it does more than just bring a substantial amount of renewable energy into the county; it also becomes a real-life science lab where our students can see solar energy at work,” said Dr. Andrew Zuckerman, chief operating officer for Montgomery County Public Schools.

This is SunEdison’s second consecutive project with the Montgomery County Public School system.

The company’s other school projects elsewhere in the USA include solar for Rosedale Union School District and Rialto Unified School District. In January this year, SunEdison was named exclusive solar provider for the 250 member school districts of California’s School Project for Utility Rate Reduction.

SunEdison has a long and successful track record helping school districts across the U.S. save money with solar,” said Steve Raeder, SunEdison’s managing director of its Eastern U.S. commercial and industrial business.

Closer to home, the company has also carried out a number of solar projects for schools in Australia.

In other recent SunEdison news, last week the company announced the completion of two solar power systems totaling 1.28 megawatts AC.

Constructed and financed by SunEdison, the arrays were developed for the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities’ (Minnesota) waste water treatment plant and are expected to generate enough power to provide 10 percent of the plant’s annual electricity needs. A 1 megawatt solar energy system was built for the plant’s liquid treatment facility and another 280 kilowatt PV array for the on-site sludge drying facility.

Safaricom Foundation & Aleutia Providing
Solar Flat-Pack Classrooms For Kenya



The first of 47 prefabricated, solar power classrooms manufactured by Aleutia and destined for each of Kenya’s counties has been installed.

This first classroom is in Kiambu county. It measures 3 metres by 6 metres classroom and consists of 10 fanless Aleutia computers and a teacher’s PC/server with 512GB SSD loaded with offline Wikipedia and Khan Academy.

The classroom is run entirely on 12V DC and powered by pair of 250W panels plus a single charge controller charging deep cycle batteries.

Aleutia fanless PC’s draw very little power – depending on the model, they have a maximum peak power consumption of between 15 and 21.7 watts and the server, 75 watts. While fanless, the computers can function in temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius and are built to withstand humidity and dusty conditions.

Aleutia states it has provided hundreds of solar classrooms across Sub Saharan Africa, but in the past this has often required expensive site surveys or retrofits of existing classrooms; which are often in poor condition. Existing structures may need roof reinforcement, have shading issues, sub-optimum roof angles or orientation.

The prefabricated classrooms Aleutia is producing for the Kenya project cost less than USD $20,000 each, including equipment. Components for the structure are made locally and sized so they can be transported in a pickup or cattle truck rather than a more expensive flat-bed truck. The company says the classroom can be installed in less than 48 hours once on-site.

While converted standard converted shipping containers have been popular for classrooms in Africa, Aleutia says these are a little narrow, 2.5 metres compared to 3 metres, and more expensive.

Safaricom Foundation, Africa’s largest telecommunications provider is funding the Kenya project and will choose recipient schools.

Aleutia commenced operations in 2007, a year after founder Mike Rosenberg volunteered to set up a computer classroom in Ghana and was frustrated by the challenge of failing, energy intensive second hand desktops.

We understand the importance of energy efficiency in rural Africa, where every watt counts, and cost saving solutions in Europe. We are committed to bridging the digital divide in Africa and have a passion for reducing the carbon footprint.

College Unveils Massive Solar Parking Canopy

Bristol Community College and the Governor of Massachusetts have unveiled a 3.2 megawatt solar parking canopy at  the College’s Fall River Campus.

Constructed in partnership with PowerOptions and SunEdison, Inc. (NYSE: SUNE), the solar array will supply power for the entire Fall River Campus, plus the requirements for the John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building; currently under construction. The solar panel system combined with other energy efficiency features will enable the college to achieve a Zero Net Energy goal for the new building.

The PV array will generate more than 34 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity annually and avoid the production of more than 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

A solar parking canopy system of this size and scale is the perfect fit for Bristol Community College’s renewable energy needs,” said Steve Raeder, SunEdison managing director of commercial and industrial for the Eastern U.S. “Colleges, municipalities and other facilities with large parking areas can also benefit from the innovative SunEdison solar parking canopy system, which provides shade and shelter in addition to generating cost-effective, clean solar energy."

Governor Charlie Baker praised solar’s potential in his state.

“Initiatives like the solar canopy at Bristol Community College leverage opportunities at state facilities, and position the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while protecting the environment and moving towards our administration’s solar goal of generating 1,600 megawatts at homes, businesses, municipalities, and state agencies by 2020.”

Earlier this month, Governor Baker filed legislation to establish a long term, sustainable framework for further solar development in Massachusetts; which he said would be necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s goal.

As for Bristol Community College, in addition to shading for hundreds of vehicles; it will benefit from substantial savings over the next 20 years, estimated at more than USD $1.75 million. Electricity from the nearly 10,000 solar panels is being supplied under a power purchase agreement (solar PPA) with SunEdison; which is also providing ongoing operation and maintenance of the solar canopy.

Other solar power systems at the campus include in a 10-kilowatt installation on the Engineering Building (B) constructed in 2008 and in 2010 an 86-kilowatt system was installed onto buildings C, D, and F.

The latest project was made possible with the assistance of PowerOptions, which helps organizations consolidate their energy buying influence. The PowerOptions Solar Program assists nonprofits, government institutions, and municipalities enjoy the clean, cost-effective, and sustainable energy benefits of solar power.

College To Save Millions With Solar Power

SunEdison, Inc. has signed an agreement with Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the USA to offset all college’s electricity use with solar energy.

Macalester College will be one of the first colleges to participate in SunEdison’s community solar gardens program, which enables participants to reap the benefits of solar electricity even when they are unable to install arrays at their own facilities.

Not only will the college add to its already long history of environmental and energy efficiency efforts through the arrangement, the power bill savings will be huge.

“Given our projected consumption patterns and the expected rising trend in electricity rates over the period of the agreement, we believe that the savings over the term of the agreement could be in the millions of dollars,” said the College’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, David Wheaton. “Those savings will begin as soon as the solar gardens are operational and will benefit both current and future students.”

SunEdison says it plans to commence construction of the community solar gardens in 2015, with view to starting commercial operation in 2016.

“We expect to see more schools, colleges, and universities follow Macalester College’s lead and take advantage of the solar gardens program in the near future,” said Sam Youneszadeh, Managing Director of Distributed Generation Western USA at SunEdison.

In other recent news from SunEdison, the company announced late last week the appointment of Cathy Zoi  as Chief Executive Officer responsible for developing SunEdison’s rural electric utility company.

Ms. Zoi, currently a Consulting Professor at Stanford University, has three decades of experience in the energy and environmental sectors. Among her many high-profile positions, she was the founding CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection and Acting Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy in the Obama Administration.

Dunbarton High School in Pickering named Canada’s Greenest School

In the last five years, Dunbarton High School has undergone a green transformation that has earned it the title of Greenest School in Canada.

An annual competition put on by The Canada Green Building Council and the Canada Coalition for Green Schools seeks to find schools across the country that show how sustainability can be woven into the infrastructure, culture and curriculum of a school.

Dunbarton was selected by a jury comprised of green building industry experts from across the country.

The school was recognized for a number of sustainable measures. For example, it has installed new, more energy-efficient windows that can be opened for fresh air, new exterior brickwork with underlying foam insulation for greater energy efficiency, and fluorescent lighting which operates at a lower wattage and glare.

Classrooms include recycling bins and signage that directs staff and students how to keep selected light banks off and reduce lighting consumption. They also have a designated box for scrap paper that can be used in lieu of new paper. A rooftop solar hot water heating system preheats water in the cafeteria, gym and some washrooms.

“There is an attitude here that it is not good enough to just talk about being green; we must act to make the community greener in a real and sustainable way,” said teacher David Gordon, the school’s EnviroClub program leader. “The students at Dunbarton High School have this attitude and jump at the opportunity to exercise leadership and act to make the community more sustainable.”

The creation of ‘bee condos’ that encourage pollination, local park rehabilitation efforts and rain barrel sales also contributed to the title.

Since a green bin service is not available to the school, Dunbarton co-ordinates organic waste collection with local neighbours in order to keep this waste from landfill. The school also offers an Atlantic salmon restoration program as a part of the curriculum.

Grade 9 students who are new to the school get a stainless steel water bottle, refillable at five filling fountains.

As the winner of the competition, Dunbarton will receive $2,000 to put toward a green activity and becomes the official Canadian entry into the Greenest School on Earth competition, awarded annually by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. Winners will receive an additional $1,000 to put toward a new or ongoing sustainability project.

US Solar School Census Report Published

More than 3,700 solar power systems are installed at public and private K-12 schools in the USA according to a report from The Solar Foundation.

Nearly 2.7 million students are attending schools gaining some of their electricity by harvesting the power of the sun.

The report states electricity generated in one year by all 3,727 PV systems represents a combined value of USD $77.8 million per year and averages $21,000 a year per school.

Nearly half of the systems currently installed are larger than 50 kilowatts capacity and 55 schools have systems larger than 1 megawatt.

While the uptake is impressive, it’s still a drop in the educational institution ocean in the USA. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were approximately 132,000 public and private schools operating during the 2009-2010 school year.

The report states between 40,000 and 72,000 schools could go solar cost effectively. 450 individual school districts could each save more than a million dollars over three decades by installing a solar panel system.

If 72,000 US schools installed solar, the combined electricity generation would offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking approximately 1 million cars off the USA’s roads.

The 39-page report, “Brighter Future : A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools”, can be viewed here (PDF) . The report was prepared for the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership program and supported by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

BIG Apple Schools, Going Solar in a BIG Way!

New York City and State government is supporting the installation of solar power systems at two dozen schools in the City with a total of USD $28 million in funding.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says the initiative is part of the administration’s new green buildings plan that will triple the amount of solar capacity currently planned on City-owned buildings, and contribute significantly to the City’s goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2050.

Totaling 6.25 MW capacity, the 24 solar panel system installations installed at various schools will avoid more than 2,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Additionally, the installations will a learning tool integrated into an environmental curriculum plan. Online monitoring will enable students to track system performance and undertake related analyses.

“These 24 new solar installations at our schools mark a significant step forward, tripling the amount of solar currently on City buildings -but they’re also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how we’ll dramatically reduce our contributions to climate change,” said the Mayor.

Mayor de Blasio has also committed to retrofitting every energy-hungry City-owned building by 2025, including installing 100 MW of solar power. The project will be carried out under the One City, Built to Last initiative.

The City also plans to support an additional 250 MW of solar power on private buildings.

The $28 million school investment includes $23 million in City funds and an estimated $5 million in grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

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Schools Continue to  Unplug from the Grid

Schools across the country are installing solar energy systems that create cost savings, lower bills, and allow income generation for cash-strapped districts. These systems are being installed at no-cost to the schools or taxpayers, which is a huge and essential element in times of tight budgets. Add to this, the utilization of previously unused space, and the positive environmental impacts and you have an amazing story that every school district should know about.

SunEdison a leading solar technology manufacturer and provider of solar energy services today announced a partnership with Rosedale Union School District (RUSD) in Bakersfield, Calif. to install, monitor and manage 1.8 MW of solar at the district's nine schools. This solar energy and efficiency project is expected to save the district approximately $55,000 in year one and more than $2 million in energy costs over 20 years.

Solar shade canopies will be constructed in parking lots at the district's schools, taking advantage of underutilized space to produce clean solar energy and provide needed shade for parking.  Scheduled for completion by the end of this year, the project is expected to significantly reduce electricity usage, freeing up funds for important academic and enrichment programs across the district. SunEdison will install, monitor and maintain the solar system at no additional expense to the district.

"Our partnership with SunEdison will allow Rosedale Union School District to maximize our use of clean energy, and significantly reduce our utility expenses from day one, while providing us with a fixed cost of energy for the next 20 years," said John G. Mendiburu, Ed.D, Superintendent, Rosedale Union School District. "In addition to the cost savings and added value to the classroom, this project helps reduce our carbon footprint and create a sustainable and brighter future for our children."

"Leaders of the Rosedale Union School District have shown forward-looking vision in meeting the energy needs of their growing community," said Bob Hopper, Vice President Distributed Generation Origination & Strategy at SunEdison. "SunEdison works with progressive school districts across California to reduce energy costs and we look forward to partnering with other districts to realize energy efficiencies and funnel those savings back to the classroom."

Nearly 5,000 SunEdison Silvantis™ modules will be installed as part of this project scheduled to begin in the summer of 2014. Once operational, the solar systems will be managed by the SunEdison Renewable Operation Center (ROC), which provides global 24/7 asset management, monitoring and reporting services. Data collected from the ROC is used to continuously improve the company's products, project designs and service offerings.

Yingli And SolarAid Light Up African School

Yingli Green Energy and SolarAid joined forces to help Mayukwayukwa High School in Kaoma, Zambia harness the power of the sun.
Donated by Yingli Solar and its partners through SolarAid, the system is large enough to meet the lighting requirements of the 600 student school; plus provides cell phone charging for the entire community.
"The solar lighting lengthens learning hours, improves education quality and reduces dependence on expensive and toxic kerosene lamps," said Richard Turner, Chief Fundraiser at SolarAid.
The new high school is located in one of Africa's oldest refugee camps - the Mayukwayukwa Settlement - and was constructed under a UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) program.
Less than 10% of rural sub-Saharan Africans have access to electricity and families can spend up to a quarter of their income on kerosene for lighting. Kerosene lamps are carbon intensive and are also known to cause respiratory disease in households where they are heavily used. Africans spend billions a year on kerosene and while the fossil fuel may provide light, it also reinforces poverty.
"Bringing clean safe light to communities in Africa helps create brighter and better futures for students and families currently living without electricity," said Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy; the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels.
SolarAid has set a goal of ridding the continent of kerosene lamps by 2020 and replacing them with clean power sources; improving the health, education and wealth of Africa's 110 million households currently living without access to electricity.
SolarAid's focus is the distribution of solar lights that cost as little as $10, pay for themselves after 12 weeks and last for five years.
"Quality, compact solar lights increase people’s income by an average of 20% per month," states the 
SolarAid web site.

Kendall Foundation Awards $485,000 to
UMass Amherst to Advance
Campus’s Resilient, Local and Sustainable Food System

AMHERST, Mass. ­– Seeking to transform the sustainable food landscape in New England, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation of Boston has granted $485,000 over the next two years to the University of Massachusetts Amherst to support and extend the campus’s award-winning leadership in food sustainability.

The foundation’s long-term goal is “to create a resilient and healthy food system in New England that increases the production and consumption of local, sustainably-produced food” so that by 2060, a majority of food eaten in New England will be produced here. It identifies the I-91 corridor from Greenfield, Mass. to New Haven, Conn. as one of its target areas and recognizes UMass Amherst as already a pioneering leader in using whole, local foods.

Andrew Kendall, executive director of the Kendall Foundation, says, “We chose to support this program at UMass Amherst because universities are important levers for change in the food system. They have economic clout that impacts the supply chain and they engage students who are future consumers. Having UMass Amherst in our Route 91 Groundwork area, together with a director who shares our priorities, presents a unique opportunity for the Kendall Foundation to support a high profile success story. There’s excitement and even passion there among the students, plus the administration has made a solid commitment to sustainability as a core value of the campus. It’s a natural fit and we’re very pleased to see what this dedicated group of people can do in the next few years.”

When he learned of the grant, Congressman James McGovern, long interested in promoting local and environmentally sustainable food, said, “This major grant will go a long way in allowing UMass Amherst to continue their innovative work in creating a sustainable, resilient, locally based food system. It is unbelievable to me that in 2014, it is difficult for most people to access local, healthy food. But changing that reality requires institutions like UMass to be out front on shifting the paradigm. I have seen up close and personal the pioneering work UMass Amherst is doing on a number of sustainability initiatives, and I congratulate them on being recognized for those efforts.”

The Kendall grant will help planners for the campus’s dining services to find and cultivate new suppliers of whole, local and more environmentally sustainable food on an unprecedented scale, says executive director Ken Toong of auxiliary services. “We share the Kendall Foundation’s goals. We’d like to shift the food we buy and help other institutions get to that.”

The transition will focus at first on the campus’s newly remodeled Hampshire Dining Commons, which serves about 1.3 million meals per year. UMass Amherst dining services now uses about 32 percent local produce and is seeking to increase that amount, plus adding more free-range poultry and eggs and other local and regional meats, dairy and fish.

“For example, we are very interested in finding a source of cage-free chicken for our dining services from Massachusetts,” says Toong. “However, in Hampshire Dining Commons, we require on average 50 chickens per day for one menu item and finding a vendor that could supply that volume has been very difficult. This grant from the Kendall Foundation will allow us to develop relationships with new, non-industrial poultry vendors in the region who can ramp up to match our demand. In the meantime, the money will help us buy the free-range chicken we’re seeking.”

Redesigned meals will use more sustainable seafood based on underused species such as hake, Acadian redfish and pollock, plus local, free-range and humanely raised meats, plant-based proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy beverages. The campus will also try varied strategies to eliminate waste and find cost efficiencies to offset the higher cost of protein.

UMass Amherst recently was the largest food service provider in the nation in higher education to sign on to the Boston-based Real Food Challenge, an organization whose goal is to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrially farmed and junk food and toward local and community-based, fair and ecologically sound by 2020.

The Kendall Foundation has embraced the New England Food Vision developed by Food Solutions New England, a spokesman points out. This vision wants to see at least 50 percent of food consumed in New England produced in the region by 2060. The foundation takes a regional view, seeing the food system as a complex web of people and organizations and recognizes that many complementary strategies and tactics are required to create lasting change.

In addition to funding two new sustainable food system coordinators who will explore such strategies as collective buying power with nearby educational institutions, the grant will support the expansion of two annual workshops already offered by UMass Amherst. One is an annual permaculture event to be known now as “Revisioning Sustainability.” In 2013, more than 100 faculty, staff and students from 34 campuses, 14 states and three countries attended.

Project organizer Rachel Dutton, a dining services sustainability manager says, “The mission is to make a sustainable and secure New England food system and the Kendall Foundation sees UMass as the pilot project. If we can figure this out, it could be a game-changer for institutions all over western Massachusetts and the I-91 corridor. We want to teach what works and share it with other campuses. So this quickly becomes a movement and sustainability becomes a new norm.”

The other annual event is the “Chef’s Culinary Conference,” organized by Toong. At this hands-on event, the largest in the nation for college chefs, participants hear lectures in the morning and spend the afternoons in groups of 20, testing 200 recipes in five days. In the next two years, there will be increased emphasis on how to use local, whole and environmentally sustainable foods in campus meal planning.

The award will allow the campus to broaden participation at both of these conferences by funding 40 scholarships and honoraria for the four conferences in 2014 and 2015, to bring outside speakers to excite, inspire and increase commitment to a resilient and healthy New England food economy. Dutton and other UMass Amherst sustainability staff plan to develop a “how to guide” for use throughout New England, showing others how to change a traditional campus food system to a healthy, sustainable system that supports regional food networks and meets the Real Food Challenge and Kendall Foundation goals.

The Dangers of School Bus Diesel Exhaust And What Schools Are Doing About It

When we imagine "SUSTAINABLE SCHOOL," for many of us, we think in terms of the building and classroom where students spend their day. But for many students, their day at school begins before they even get there, and in some cases, it may not be starting out in the most healthy of ways if that student is taking a bus.

They carry your most precious cargo, sometimes for hours a day; but school buses have a hidden danger that's threatening your child's health.

"I think everybody needs to be worried," says James Kenny, MD, a retired pulmonologist who's studied air pollution extensively.

The source: dangerous diesel fuel exhaust.

Dr. Kenny says diesel exhaust is made up of two main parts: gases and soot. Those contain dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides and nitric oxides, to name a few.

Many federal agencies classify it as a probable human carcinogen.

"The health risks with diesel exhausts are mainly asthma, evolving into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and early disability and then possible cancers," Dr. Kenny says.

He says pollution can get trapped inside the bus where tiny particle levels can be 5-10 times higher than outside.

Even scarier is that your child's symptoms can be difficult to detect. Dr. Kenny says wheezing is the only obvious side effect. That could eventually develop into asthma, which he says is the top reason why students miss school.

"Statewide, 30 percent in the 6th grade have asthma," he says of a UNC-Chapel Hill study. "That's a significant amount and you can't educate an empty desk."

So how does your child's school bus measure up? It's tough to tell.

North Carolina does not require emissions tests for school buses or for any other diesel-powered car. That's because the Environmental Protection Agency has not yet developed a reliable test for diesel engines.

There's also no state law that regulates air quality within the buses, so it's up to the North Carolina Division of Air Quality and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to reduce emissions.

"I think we all know that our most valuable commodity is the children," says Brock Letchworth of Pitt County Schools. "That's what we're always trying to protect and that is inside the classrooms, that's outside the classrooms on buses as well."

DPI requires school systems statewide to adopt a reduced idling policy to be eligible for any state transportation funds linked to increasing fuel prices..

Letchworth says buses in his district are not allowed to idle longer than five minutes at a time. Buses must park diagonally, rather than single file, and take shorter routes with fewer stops.

They're strategies Letchworth says also save thousands of dollars a year in fuel costs.

"While we're protecting the children, we're also protecting the bottom line," he says.

Newer buses made after 2007 are much cleaner than older ones, thanks to stricter new EPA standards. But with budget cuts, not many school systems can afford them.

Instead, many schools are investing in cheaper pollution-cutting filters for older buses that can reduce emissions by up to 90 percent.

Experts say the best option for long-term solutions would be to start using an alternative fuel source like biodiesel. It's a cleaner-burning version of diesel made from natural, renewable sources such as vegetable oils instead of petroleum.

Green Circle North Carolina is leading the efforts here in the East. Co-owner Dean Price says local farmers make vegetable oil and sell it to local restaurants. The restaurant owners then turn around and sell or donate it back to his company.

Green Circle NC then turns it into biodiesel. Price says when you use it in school buses it improves the air quality by 80 percent compared to fossil fuels.

But beyond the health benefits, he says it could also provide an economic boost.

"Five years ago, the restaurant owners were having to pay to get rid of this substance," Price says of used vegetable oil. "It's what I call the perfect Cinderella story. This trash has now turned into treasure where the restaurant owners are now getting paid for their waste product. This will have ripple effects through the entire economy of enc for decades to come."

Pitt County Schools participates in price's Biodiesel for Schools program, which gives the district a portion of the proceeds from the sale of that used cooking oil to use for teachers and classroom resources.

Letchworth says their ultimate goal is to eventually have all their buses running on biodiesel.

Calvert Green

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