San Francisco schools are committed to having the district generate all of its own power on-site by 2050. (Courtesy photo)

SF schools committed to helping the earth

We’re celebrating earth day every day here at the San Francisco Unified School District.

We’re celebrating earth day every day here at the San Francisco Unified School District. We’re improving our recycling practices, encouraging energy saving initiatives, exploring clean transportation options and more.

In fact, over the past 10 years, we have reduced our energy use by 22 percent, our natural gas usage by 28 percent, and our water use by 29 percent. I am proud to lead the school district with the most robust climate action plan in the nation.

In 2016, SFUSD became the second school district in the nation to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Policy, a values-based procurement program rooted in five standards: local economies, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, valued workforce, and nutrition.

SFUSD has been recognized as a Green Ribbon district by the US Department of Education and received the Green California Summit’s Leadership Award, the Green Culture Leadership Award at the CA Green Schools Summit, and the “Best of Green Schools” award for industry transformation from the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools.

Plastic-free and renewable

Some impressive greening is happening all over SFUSD. In order to accelerate our efforts, the SFUSD Sustainability Office is implementing a Carbon Reduction Plan that calls for new buildings to be designed to use no more energy than they can generate on site. All new SFUSD vehicles to be emissions-free where electric options exist.

Aging, natural gas-fired equipment to be replaced with clean, efficient heat pumps. And, for our school bus fleet to be converted to renewable diesel, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds.

But that’s not all. We are committed to having the district generate all of its own power on-site by 2050.

Some of these important changes will take a long time, but we are doing all we can now. We are currently designing five Zero Net Energy ready schools and replacing natural gas heating systems at an additional six. And, with the help of the SF Public Utilities Commission, we are installing up to three new Solar PV systems every year.

We’ve stopped using straws and we are reducing plastic use in our cafeterias (next school year our sporks won’t have plastic wrapping).

Earth Day, Every Day

Our district sustainability leaders issued a challenge to our schools and, since then, we’ve seen some creative responses.

The Earth Day Every Day Challenge is open to all our pre K-12 schools. Schools compete by participating in sustainability-related activities and receive points. Winning schools are not only recognized as eco-leaders they are eligible for a cash prize.

As the Earth Day Every Day challenge grows, you might want to ask at your school what you can do to help.

A lot of kids walk or bike to school or take Muni; some families organize carpools. We know that getting to school each day has an impact on our climate. Finding ways to end our solo car commutes will not only help the environment by decreasing carbon emissions and pollution, but also create safer, more connected school communities by lowering congestion and improving physical activity.

Did you know it costs SFUSD less to recycle and compost than to send stuff to the landfill? Classrooms can increase the number of recycling bins to make it easier for kids to fill them up. Not only could your school end up earning a cash prize, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

I am proud of our school district and the many teachers and students who are part of the solution every day.

See if your school is already signed up for the Earth Day Every Day Challenge.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of The Examiner.

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