Since 2008, SFUSD has decreased its energy use by 22 percent. (Courtesy photo)

Why not make every day Earth Day?

Awhile back, the San Francisco Unified School District took a look at Earth Day on the calendar and wondered: Why just one day to think about our environment and how to better protect it?

That’s how Earth Day Every Day started in the SFUSD.

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

To be fair, we have been busy increasing our recycling programs, energy-saving initiatives, clean transportation options and more for nearly 10 years now. And we’ve seen some impressive greening happening all over the school district.

In fact, since 2008, the SFUSD’s energy use has dropped by 22 percent, our water usage is down almost 30 percent and we are sending 66 percent more of our waste to recycling or composting.

This is very impressive, but we know our work is never done.

Earth Day, Every Day

The Earth Day Every Day Challenge is open to all our preK-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

It’s early in the challenge, but students at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts are off to an impressive start. Up until now, two student groups on campus had worked independently on big green projects. But for the challenge, they came together and have grown to be quite sizable.

To rise to the new challenge, 10th grader Kyle Trefny and others at the school have brought together two groups; one leads nature tours for students to bring appreciation for the outdoors, and another works to bring more environmental sustainability into school curriculum.

Kyle is already aware of what the biggest challenge will be.

“If you ask around, the majority of people say they care very much about our planet and being ‘green,’ and they even agree about climate change,” Kyle said. “But the hard part is getting everyone to put in enough time to really do something about it.”

There are lots more students and staff at our schools who share a commitment to environmental stewardship — and make great things happen in and out of school.

Rise to the challenge!

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, organize a carpool or take Muni. 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 the 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.

See if your school is already signed up by visiting www.earthdayeverydaysf.com.

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District

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