“Blissfully unaware” describes my first four years as an elementary school parent. Luckily, one of the perks of being a parent of school-aged kids are the other parents you meet at the same point in life. Maybe more luckily for me, are the two I met and befriended at my children’s school, Fernbank Elementary. These two moms started a sustainability committee, the Fernbank Sustainability Initiative (FSI), for our school which I immediately felt drawn to help on. What was quickly the three of us has now turned into eight. And what we have accomplished in just one year is really something HUGE!
When we started one year ago, here’s what we inherited:
We had little to no recycling in our school before 2013
We had no Green Club or activities related to “being green” before 2014
We did not have a school garden
We used over 700 Styrofoam trays DAILY!
We had no committed parents, teachers, administration or staff
Fast forward to today and Fernbank Elementary has a recycle program, an active Go Green club and FSI. We also have a thriving school garden and as of three weeks ago, we have eliminated Styrofoam from our school cafeteria!
How?? I’m sure you want to know! First - it takes a team of passionate people with varying skills organized and deployed to solve a focused problem. We started by integrating our goals with our administration’s goals, understanding the county and school staff challenges, and connecting our efforts to student experiences.
By bringing in our key stakeholders and typical barriers as partners, we set ourselves up for success. Our program is being used as a pilot for the entire Dekalb County School System (Atlanta, Georgia).
We are only just really digging in and already diverted 2,000 lbs. from the landfill and created 500 lbs. of compost soil. That’s as much impact as leaving 40 cars parked all day or taking one car off the road for 11,250 miles. Shifting behavior towards resource responsibility in schools takes the whole system and willing and able partners, like Compost Now.
But what I am most proud of is the example we are setting for our kids. We are showing our children that passion, determination and surrounding yourself with good people can make a lasting impact. That planting one seed creates change. That there is always more to do, more to change, more to share. And commitment and perseverance make all the difference.
I’m so proud to be part of the change at Fernbank Elementary, and for being able to share and influence other nearby schools. It’s the best feeling to be able to connect my school volunteer work with Rowdy Elephants, as Leah and I are on a mission to help schools and businesses in reducing single use plastic and Styrofoam.