Grades of Green is so excited to have a new partner! Oak Park Unified School District is a champion in sustainability and is leading the way to being green. This month they will be celebrating the planet with special events planned at all of the schools during Earth Week. The big event is their first ever EarthFEST 2010. They are sponsoring the annual Oak Park Clean-Up, the Oak Park Farmer’s Market will be held at Oak Park High School, and the County will be hosting a large/bulky item and electronic waste collection event. Oak Park USD believes it is important that they serve as community leaders in the area of environmental awareness and sensitivity. In addition to incorporating environmental education into their instructional program, they are working to serve as an example for their students and community. Some of these efforts include:

They only organic fertilizers on their landscape and turf throughout the district. This limits the run-off of nitrogen and phosphates from entering the creek when it rains. These are found in large concentrations in chemical fertilizers that are commonly used. They also do this to protect their children and have created a healthy, living soil surrounding our schools. If you haven’t tried this at home, you may want to. They have done this without adding cost.

They have adopted an Integrated Pest Management system and use only eco-safe pest reduction products.

Their cleaning supplies are made from all natural eco-safe substances to protect their children and employees who must use them each day.

They purchase paper that has a high recycled content.

Their new high school parking lot absorbs rain water run-off into an infiltration system so that water and pollutants don’t run into the creek. The water is absorbed into the water table instead. Urban and suburban run-off are major sources of watershed pollution and the asphalting of large areas deprives the land of needed water to replenish aquifers.

They have just installed their first solar panels at Oak Hills Elementary School to offset the power used by the greenhouse and garden located there. This was part of an Edison Challenge project developed by students at Oak Park High School and was provided at no cost to the District.

Roofs installed at the schools last summer are new ‘cool roof ’ designs that reflect sunlight and provide substantial insulation. They are rated to save them about $12,000 a year in energy costs.

Thanks to the EEAC (Environmental Education and Awareness Committee), they have extensive waste reduction and recycling programs in place at the schools. This year the focus has been the elementary schools and they are planning a major roll out at the secondary schools in the near future.

Their Child Nutrition (Food Services) program uses a ‘no additive’ policy and they do not serve beef or other red meat. All serving trays are made from corn and are recycled.

Congratulations to them for their amazing efforts to make a better, sustainable earth for all of us.