Green Steps

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Green Steps Schools is an environmental education and action initiative that recognizes schools in South Carolina who take annual sustainable steps toward becoming more environmentally responsible.

Here at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, we are seeking to respond to the “groans in travail” of the earth discussed by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si and address some problems of waste here at our school.
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Some of our current projects are:

Conserve

Energy – Power Down
The new high school environmental club members have continued to encourage teachers and students to turn off lights when rooms are not occupied for extended periods of time. Teachers are encouraged to turn off energy “vampires” over night and during weekends. The students did two surveys counting the number of lights on during assemblies and lunch before and after a reminder.  Sadly, we did not see much difference.


Recycle – Collection Bins

The second year of the recycling bin program has gone well.  The middle school and high school environmental clubs have continued their strong participation.  The middle school students visit their assigned rooms and empty the containers. In the high school the club members posted information all around the building so that everyone can easily see what should and should not be put into the recycling containers. The club members encourage their households to participate and the household deans are in charge of asking a member of their household to empty the bins.

 

Recycle – Lunchtime Drink Containers

A new program this year for the middle school has been to collect empty drink containers. Greater Greenville Sanitation donated a liquid waste collection container so that students can empty the remaining liquid out of their bottles and cans and now recycle them! Our middle school environmental club members help to monitor this. In the past all these containers went into the trash. We now collect almost a full blue bin in about 2 to 3 weeks time.

Reduce – Tap and Stack

A new program this year for the middle school our tap and stack program decreases the volume of waste and allows us to begin to compost some of the fruit and vegetable waste, keeping it out of the landfill. The middle school environmental club students help to monitor the program. They worked at the collection table every day for the first few months. Now the program is able to function fairly well without intense monitoring. They measured the reduction of waste by counting the trash cans used prior to starting the program and after. We went from 8 full trash cans down to 3 during each lunch period.
The middle school environmental club calculated the volume of waste that was kept out of the landfill and presented their numbers to the entire middle school. Before we started Tap and Stack we were averaging five pails of waste a day during middle school lunch. This equals 900 garbage pails of waste per year! Once we started Tap and Stack we were able to reduce our waste to 3 pails of waste a day – that means we produced 540 garbage pails for the year -which means we are putting 360 LESS garbage pails of waste into the environment each year!

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Protect

Air – Breathe Better Campaign

This is a continuation of a program begun last year in the middle school at SJCS.  The students first had a lesson on air quality and air pollutants, and then we started the campaign in earnest.  Students took home literature to their families and/or passed it out during the carline. At the last count, no cars (0!) were idling during carline.  

The high school environmental club has informally picked up the Breathe Better Campaign having noticed more and more cars idling during the winter.  The students have created posters and plan to hand out literature to idling cars during the first part of May so that we can end the year on a positive note and reinforce the program for next year.


Litter - Litter Free Game

For the second year the high school environmental club has organized the school for a litter free game.  This year we held it during our Homecoming for Football. Students handed out literature and spoke to fans as they entered the stadium, created announcements to be made before the game and during halftime and then walked around during halftime and at the end of the game to collect litter from all the fans.   We also had the school set out more Recycling containers during the game and encouraged fans to recycle empty bottles and cans.

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Litter - Litter Pickup

Throughout the year we organized seven Campus Clean up events.  Our Litter chair person in the Environmental club spoke to the groups and explained that our goal was to help the facilities staff to help keep our campus a place everyone is proud of.  Over the course of the year over 130 students used grabbers, gloves and orange vests as they roamed the campus looking for litter!

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Restore

Habitat – Gardens
The middle school environmental club has been tending our raised bed school garden.  We began planting with the Lasagna method – a no-dig, no-till organic gardening method that results in rich, fluffy soil with very little work from the gardener. We have grown everything from sweet potatoes to peas, carrots, broccoli, and kale.   Our school chef has been enthusiastically supportive of our efforts!  He has been using our produce to provide our community with enjoyable nutritious meals.  In the fall he made a sweet potato casserole from our sweet potatoes, and he has included our broccoli, beets, carrots, peas, and kale in his soups and salads.
Soil – Vermiculture Garden Tower

The long tube running down the center of the vertical garden tower is a vermicomposting system. Half a cup of worms is added at the beginning of the growing season. Kitchen vegetable scraps are then added regularly to keep the vertical compost tube full. The worms feed on the organic matter, turning it into worm manure called worm castings, which become an excellent organic fertilizer and soil amendment. Around the outside of the tube are “pockets” for planting.  We’ve grown herbs, lettuces, and even radishes! Again our chef has made use of them in our lunch menu.