CCUSD earns national Green Ribbon honors

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Culver City Unified School District is one of only nine district across the country to be honored among the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardees.


CCUSD was nominated by the California Department of Education for its extensive efforts in not only teaching environmental sustainability but also walking the walk to make the district itself more sustainable.


“This is an incredible achievement that speaks to our on-going commitment to make our campuses a national leader in the effort to create more sustainable schools and more environmentally aware students,” said CCUSD Superintendent Josh Arnold. “CCUSD takes pride in the continual improvements that are being made to reduce the District’s environmental impacts; improve the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the community; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.”


The recognition rewards schools and districts that demonstrate exemplary achievement in three “pillars.” Pillar I: reduce environmental impact and costs; Pillar II: improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Pillar III: provide effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, civic skills, and green career pathways.


“CCUSD is working hard to foster a culture of sustainability,” said Board of Education member Kelly Kent. “When people come to CCUSD’s campuses and see our solar PV arrays, award-winning custom designed sorting stations, Green5 banners and posters, they know the District embraces the responsibility to create a more sustainable world.”


In October 2010, the CCUSD Board of Education created the Environmental Sustainability Committee (ESC) to help the district become more environmentally and fiscally sustainable, and foster an ecoliterate and globally responsible student body. The ESC comprises parent volunteers with knowledge and experience in sustainability and a passion to help the district.


In 2011, the ESC facilitated a third-party baseline energy audit of the school facilities, created a sustainability master plan for the school board, and began working on bringing a 750 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to the district’s main campus – where the comprehensive high school, middle school, and one elementary school are co-located – to reduce the district’s carbon footprint and raise money for the general fund.


During the 2011–12 school year, the ESC launched the Green5 co-curricular sustainability education program to increase awareness amongst students and staff about recycling; reducing waste, energy use, and water consumption; reusing 28 materials; engaging in active transportation; and rethinking local solutions to global problems.


During the 2012–13 school year, with support from a CalRecycle grant, CCUSD’s ESC brought the Green5 recycling and sustainability education program to all five elementary schools, with the addition of food waste composting across all five campuses. In 2014, CCUSD received a second CalRecycle grant that enabled the district to transform Green5 into a districtwide program, and purchase durable custom-designed sorting stations for the middle school, high school, Culver Park continuation high school, adult school, and the Office of Child Development. Since 2014, the amount of materials being sent to the landfill by CCUSD has been reduced by more than 50 percent, for a districtwide diversion rate exceeding 80 percent. Districtwide, an estimated 29 tons of mixed recycling is diverted from the landfill each year, which is the equivalent of 100 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided, while 935 tons of compostable food waste is diverted from the landfill each school year, which is the equivalent of 823.5 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.


The Green5 districtwide program now includes: annual school assemblies; student leaders at each school site; sustainability staff liaisons (teachers and administrators) who support the Green5 program at each school site; trainings on energy and water auditing and waste reduction analysis and techniques; annual districtwide recycling competitions; districtwide administration, analysis, and dissemination of the My Actions Count Survey three times each year; a robust Safe Routes to School-sponsored Walk and Rollers Program (known as the fourth R in Green5) with growing participation; an expanding partnership with Culver CityBus Green Fleet; an award-winning food program; and a civic engagement program focused on reducing food waste and sharing food with local families in a backpack program.


The district was an early adopter of California’s Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum, and provided training to a cross-section of CCUSD teachers in 2011. Although only a subset of teachers is currently using the EEI in their classrooms, CCUSD is considered an EEI Deep Implementer School District. CCUSD is looking forward to adopting new statewide textbooks in 2018 that will integrate the EEI curriculum across grades and subject areas. Currently, CCUSD has three environmental studies courses that have been approved by the school board.


In June 2016, the school board passed an Environmentally Preferential Purchasing Policy and Administrative Resolution. The board currently is considering the adoption of a Green Operations board policy, which includes a commitment for advancing ecoliteracy.


The district is fostering a culture of sustainability. When people visit district schools and see solar arrays, award-winning custom-designed sorting stations, Green5 banners, and environmental posters, they know the district embraces the responsibility to create a more sustainable world. CCUSD students and staff have cultivated a habit of practicing the Five Rs, and an understanding of their positive influence as a collective community.


“It has been my distinct honor to have worked closely over the past five years with so many passionate student and staff leaders, dedicated parent volunteers, supportive school board members and the empowering superintendent’s office,” said CCUSD Sustainability Coordinator Shea Cunningham. “Together, we have built a district-wide Sustainability Program based on best practices and committed to continual improvement. The District is committed to following through on the goals and targets we have set through the Green Ribbon application and takes the weighty responsibility of continuing to integrate sustainability practices and programs throughout the entire system.”


Across the country, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity.