Schools, Climate Change & Solutions: Sustainability Group at Ancillae-Assumpta

Schools, Climate Change & Solutions: Sustainability Group at Ancillae-Assumpta

Thirty-three participants from 17 schools attended PAISBOA’s Sustainability Group meeting at Ancillae-Assumpta Academy on January 15, 2019; the topic: Schools, Climate Change & Solutions. Climate Reality Leadership Corps member and Haverford College’s Vice President & Chief of Staff Jesse Lytle gave a solutions-oriented presentation on climate change.

National Recognition Drives Excellence in Green Schools

Sharing Sustainability Success in Schools

Students at APS Discovery Elementary observe energy use on a display screen. (Photo from the Green Schools National Network.)

Students at APS Discovery Elementary observe energy use on a display screen. (Photo from the Green Schools National Network.)

Last year, the Arlington Public School District (APS) in Massachusetts was one of fifty-eight primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools and school districts to receive national recognition for efforts and achievements in sustainability. Over the course of several years APS invested in improving energy efficiencies by installing solar panels, new natural gas boilers, LED lighting, and energy management systems, among other operational improvements (APS ED-GRS application, 2017). Students and faculty can be found composting, diverting 122,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill each year. Students also have the opportunity to learn about environmental science, energy efficiency and sustainability through recycling and composting programs as well as interactive tools that display energy use and savings.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, a 2012 Green Ribbon School from Pennsylvania, uses bulletin boards to raise awareness of the school’s zero waste efforts.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, a 2012 Green Ribbon School from Pennsylvania, uses bulletin boards to raise awareness of the school’s zero waste efforts.

Through these diligent efforts APS was able to earn the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Award. Considered the top honor for green schools, DOE grants ED-GRS awards every year in conjunction Earth Day celebrations. The goal? Inspiration and resource-sharing. “The ED-GRS award was very meaningful,” says Arlington Public Schools Sustainability Coordinator, Rachel Oliveri, “it not only gave us state and national recognition but also led many other communities to reach out and learn from us and exchange ideas.” In a press release after receiving the 2018 award, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said, “it’s such an honor to be cited on the national level for our efforts and to educate students who see themselves as powerful change makers.”

Developing minds are a distinct target for initiating change, promoting sustainable innovation, and spreading awareness. More than a quarter of the U.S. population is school-aged (0-25), most of whom spend significant portions of their day in educational institutions (and more, if you include faculty and staff) (KFF, 2016). Thus, educational institutions have become exemplars and boiling pots of sustainable transformation. Through efficiency improvements, recycling, composting and other waste-reduction programs along with numerous environmental education opportunities, schools across the country are taking steps (both big and little) towards a more sustainable future for generations to come. ED-GRS awards work as a catalyst to improve infrastructure, experience, and opportunity in schools nationwide by amplifying sustainability success stories and sharing best practices. Green schools “teach students how to lead a changing world, and they support student understanding by modeling sustainable behavior through green operations and building practices” (Center for Green Schools, 2018).

Every year each state can nominate up to six schools and/or districts for consideration by the U.S. Department of Education. Schools that qualify as “green” must demonstrate progress in three main areas, or “pillars” (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2018):

DOE Green Ribbon Schools three pillars.

DOE Green Ribbon Schools three pillars.

Pillar 1: Reduce environmental impacts and operational costs

Schools with more energy efficient operations spend less on utility costs and are better able to channel resources to education.

Pillar 2: Improve health and wellness

Schools with healthy environments allow students, faculty, and staff to flourish.

Pillar 3: Provide effective environmental and sustainability education

Schools that offer exceptional educational opportunities in hands-on cross-departmental environmental learning (especially STEM and green careers) foster student engagement, civic skills and leadership.

Wendy Turner, teacher and Green Team leader, at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, a 2015 Green Ribbon Award winner and participant in Green Building United’s Delaware Pathways to Green Schools program.

Wendy Turner, teacher and Green Team leader, at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, a 2015 Green Ribbon Award winner and participant in Green Building United’s Delaware Pathways to Green Schools program.

The program has “made a significant impact on the green schools movement,” says ED-GRS Director, Andrea Falken. The DOE now has “an unprecedented platform to address school facilities, health, and environment.” Falken believes in the program’s unique ability to foster collaboration. ED-GRS and it’s affiliated resource-sharing tools have worked to spread awareness of the many free programs that organizations such as NOAA, EPA, and U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Energy offer. The program has also enabled collaborations across the for- and non-profit private sectors, Falken says.

While the award itself is strictly non-monetary, the program fosters a funding culture that values and strives for excellence in sustainability. Many states have adopted funding programs specific to sustainability improvement projects, such as Green Building United’s Delaware Pathways to Green Schools Program, which offers mini grants and other resources to promote sustainability improvements in schools. Other states have incorporated sustainability standards and requirements into their existing funding programs for capital improvement projects. In Massachusetts, the School Building Authority (MSBA), which provides funds for most major building projects, sets baseline sustainability standards and provides incentives for going beyond those standards (MSBA, 2011). Matthew Deninger, who works for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, serves on the MSBA board, and is the Massachusetts coordinator for ED-GRS, believes that the ED-GRS award program and MSBA funding requirements complement each other quite effectively. “The MSBA baseline standards are pretty high,” Deninger says, “so any school that does a major remodel or new construction project that is funded by MSBA is required to meet those standards. Schools can also opt-in to higher sustainability standards such as LEED-S or NE-CHIPS and gain additional reimbursement points.”

Massachusetts (and many other states) have also used the application process for ED-GRS awards as a means to recognize sustainability efforts big and small within their state. “Even if a school doesn’t quite make it to consideration on the national level, we recognize state finalists and sustained excellence at schools that have already been recognized in past years,” Deninger says. “There’s a tremendous amount of work happening by teachers and students who go above and beyond,” he says, “it’s the least we can do to recognize their efforts.”

Has your school made significant progress on its sustainability goals? If so, you may want to consider applying to be nominated by your state for the ED-GRS award. Application deadlines are approaching - be sure to allow plenty of time for this prestigious application process. Information for all states can be found here or you can follow the links for select states below:

  • Pennsylvania Department of Education ED-GRS application:

    • Due January 4, 2019

  • Massachusetts Department of Education ED-GRS application:

    • Due January 11, 2019

  • Delaware Green Building United Green Schools Program:

    • Rolling application

Want to make improvements in the three pillar areas at your school? BSEC has experience empowering and guiding schools through the development and implementation of sustainability strategic plans and programs. Contact us for a free phone consult!

You can find more information on the national ED-GRS program here. DOE’s Green Strides platform also offers a user-friendly pool of resources, funding and collaboration opportunities. You can also contact your state ED-GRS coordinator for more information.

Article submitted by Avery Wolfe a recent graduate of Bates College and intern with Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.

Turning Food Waste into Food Recovery at School

In the United States, food waste is a growing problem. Currently, about 40 percent of food is thrown away without any effort to divert it from the landfill. By weight, 63 million tons of food are wasted in the US alone every year. Not only is this behavior a gross misuse of food, but growing, processing, and transporting food is a major draw on resources. Food waste alone consumes 21 percent of all freshwater, 21 percent of landfill volume, and 19 percent of cropland (ReFED, 2018). The energy the US wastes on discarded food in a year is about twice as much energy Switzerland uses in a year (Webber, 2010) . Meanwhile, one in seven Americans are food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food (USDA, 2017).  Due to the scale of this problem, the EPA has created a Food Recovery Hierarchy, a comprehensive graphic that outlines preferred food recovery techniques, with feeding hungry people and source reduction being the best practices.

Of the $218 billion worth of food wasted every year in the US, $1.2 billion is from school lunches (Bloom, 2016). In a study of four Boston schools, 26.1% of the food budget was thrown away by middle school students annually, not including the extra food that was never served (Cohen, 2013). While school lunch waste makes up a fraction of the wasted food in the US, it is an imperative problem to address. The K-12 educational system is an incredibly important piece of the American society, for it shapes the minds of its young generations. What these students learn in school can develop their passions, their habits, and their understanding of the world-- including the problems it faces. Allowing such waste in the school system teaches children that food is garbage, disposable and of little value. The USDA has introduced the Food Waste Challenge, a food waste reduction challenge for schools to participate in. Some schools have taken major steps towards reducing food waste and making students apart of the process so they can continue the legacy.

How You Can Have a Role in Change

Addressing food waste is a new and growing issue, but school administration can often be too busy to tackle the problem. So, it is often up to inspired community members to spark the change they would like to see. Wellesley, Massachusetts has an exemplary food waste reduction system, with programs including food share tables in elementary schools and a food donation system. These food recovery efforts began with a few concerned parents, teachers, and a motivated Food Service Director. From that grassroots beginning, food recovery projects have sprouted up in all K-12 schools in the Wellesley school district.

In the elementary schools, one parent took a special interest in food waste and was able to spark interest amongst fellow parents. With the help of custodians and the Bates Elementary School principal, they began looking into how to reduce consumer waste with their young students. To start, an experiment was conducted to discover what exactly was being thrown away by examining their waste. After this initial waste audit, Matt Delaney, the school’s Food Service Director from Whitsons Culinary Group, jumped on board. Three important steps were then taken:

  1. Food services cut back on the food that was not being sold.

  2. Kitchen staff went through a training process on how to package food eligible for donation.

  3. Food that was not being sold or even put out was packaged up and taken by volunteers to food pantries.

Today, excess prepared food is frozen and then picked up by Food for Free, a food rescue organization, every two weeks and taken to nonprofits in need of food. Since then, Mr. Delaney has made great efforts to tailor meals and portions so that food waste is minimized. Future goals include expanding the school’s reusable “green” food container supply and introducing food waste composting to all cafeterias.

Green Containers used by Wellesley Public Schools. Source: Matt Delaney, Whitsons Culinary Group

Green Containers used by Wellesley Public Schools. Source: Matt Delaney, Whitsons Culinary Group

After learning that the school was throwing away edible food in the initial student led waste audit, Bates Elementary School began a “share table.” Share tables (often found in elementary schools) are areas where students can leave their unopened food so that it can be redistributed. At Bates, students leave their unopened food on a specific table after lunch so it can be redirected to students in the after school program, teachers, and town departments such as Public Works. The program has been expanded to a few other Wellesley elementary schools.

In Wellesley elementary schools, parents and the Food Service Director played key roles in inspiring and implementing the food rescue program. A hope for the future in middle and high schools is that students may be inspired to address food waste and go beyond food donations and share tables. For example, students can examine why it is important to conserve food and understand the causes of the food waste challenge in the United States. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a goal of reducing food waste by half by 2030 (EPA, 2015). Consumer education will be a big part of reaching this goal. At schools, students can learn strategies for prevention, recovery and recycling of food waste. From “right sizing” portions to properly disposing of plate waste or “leftovers,” lessons about reducing and managing food waste. While curriculum is often slow to change, teachers who want to teach about food waste can work with motivated students to take the initiative to educate themselves and their peers. The links below offer some helpful suggestions for getting started.

In colleges, students often make this push. An organization called the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN) provides resources to college students who are seeking guidance in changing the food systems at their schools. Campus Coordinators work with individual students or environmental student groups to implement waste reduction techniques such as changing portion sizes, removing trays, implementing compost, and donating unserved food.  Even these students have trouble making change in consumer behavior, possibly because older students are more prone to sticking to habits. If behavioral change can be introduced at younger ages, there’s far more potential for lasting differences in how people consume their food.                                                 

How to Start Food Sharing and Donations at Your School

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Guide to Share Tables

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Guide to Share Tables

Fortunately, the Federal Government protects donors of food through the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, which encourages donations of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations. The Act encourages donations by stating that legally, a person shall or gleaner not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals” (US Cong. 104-201). Although the federal government may encourage food donations, each state and school district has different policies as to how share tables and food donations should function,  if they are allowed at all. The website Food Rescue has a history of State Policy on food waste in schools, which is important to know when attempting to start a share table of your own. Some schools donate unserved prepared food by donating it to a food rescue that will distribute it to a nonprofit serving those need. Once state and local allowance is confirmed, local board of health approval is also necessary.

Other key players to work with are the food service department, custodians, and administration. Food sharing, donating, and conservation cannot be done without the help of these departments who monitor different aspects food services. Creating collaborative relationships with these people are required to the functioning of any food rescue, share, or compost operation.

Thank you Matt Delaney of Whitsons Culinary Group, Phyllis Theermann of Sustainable Wellesley, and Adina Spertus of Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN).

Written by Meggie Devlin, Intern, Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants LLC.
August 7, 2018

Resources for Minimizing Food Waste at your School

Federal Guidelines on the Good Samaritan Act:
Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996

LL.M Program in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas Legal Guide to Food Recovery Laws:

ReFED Guide to State Laws on Food Recovery

Guide to State Laws on Food Rescue in Schools


Bloom, J. (2016). Schooling Food Waste: How Schools Can Teach Kids to Value Food. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from Food Tank website: d-waste-how-schools-can-teach-kids-to-value-food/

Cohen, J., Richardson, S., Austin, S., Economos, C., & Rimm, E. (2013). School lunch waste among middle school students: nutrients consumed and costs. PubMed, 44(2).

Cuellar, A., Webber, E. (2010). Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: The Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology. 2010 44 (16), 6464-6469.

Food Security in the US: Measurement. (2017, October 4). In USDA: Economic Research Service. Retrieved August 7, 2018, from

The Multi-Billion Dollar Food Waste Problem. (2018). Retrieved August 7, 2018, from ReFED website:

United States, Congress, Senate. Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Government Printing Office, 1996. 104th Congress, Senate Bill 104-210.

United States 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal. (2015). In United States EPA. Retrieved from waste-reduction-goaf

Celebrate Your School’s Sustainability Success

Celebrate Your School’s Sustainability Success

Has your school made significant progress on its sustainability goals through reduced environmental impact, improved health and wellness, and increased environmental literacy? If so, consider applying for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School Award. This national award, considered the top honor for green schools, celebrates and recognizes schools that have achieved excellence in sustainability.

Boyer Sudduth Featured in Video #EmbraceYourJourney

What does Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants have in common with a veterinarian, a nurse, four teachers and a chef?

On a hot day in July, a film crew descended on Chestnut Hill to capture the story of Anne Sudduth and Mary Ann Boyer's sustainability work with schools and businesses, their personal journey as environmentalists and their love of Dansko shoes! Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, was chosen by Dansko, the shoe company best known for its iconic professional clog, to be featured in their video storytelling platform #EmbraceYourJourney.

Freight Farming on Campus

Freight Farming on Campus

Photo: Students at Boston Latin stand outside of their Freight Farm

Stepping into the shipping container on the grounds of Boston Latin School is not what you would expect. The glow of LED lights, the cool humid temperature and the abundance of leafy greens hanging from the ceilings might surprise you, but for the students in charge of maintaining this wonder, it’s just another day.

Boyer Sudduth NOMINATED FOR 2018 SustainPHL AWARD

Boyer Sudduth NOMINATED FOR 2018 SustainPHL AWARD

We are thrilled and honored to announce that we’ve been nominated for the 2018 SustainPHL Award. The SustainPHL Award recognizes those helping to make Philadelphia a better, cleaner and greener city through the work they do and by inviting others to take part.  

Area Teachers Get Climate Ready with PD Session at the Franklin Institute

Area Teachers Get Climate Ready with PD Session at the Franklin Institute

Teachers in grades 4-12 from the School District of Philadelphia, area charter and independent schools participated in a professional development workshop at the Franklin Institute on May 16, 2018. The event, “Get Climate Ready,” empowered teachers with the tools to incorporate hands-on activities and lesson plans about climate change into their curriculum as well as help their school reduce climate impacts.

Red Clay School Goes Green: Cooke Elementary’s Waste Audit

How much waste does one elementary school produce each lunch period? This was the question that motivated William F. Cooke Elementary School’s Talented and Gifted (TAG) program students to conduct a waste audit on March 13th. Realizing that they needed to know what they were up against before they could make a change, the students of the TAG program at Cooke set out to find exactly what was in their waste

Cooke Elementary students predict how much waste they generate in the cafeteria before weighing each bag as part of their waste audit.

Cooke Elementary students predict how much waste they generate in the cafeteria before weighing each bag as part of their waste audit.

Teacher Christine Szegda received a grant from the Delaware Pathways to Green Schools Program. Ms. Szegda enlisted school sustainability consultants, Mary Ann Boyer and Sam York of  Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants (BSEC) to help plan and run the audit. Together, they set the date for the first waste audit on March 13th and developed an agenda for the day.

When the day came, Ms Szegda’s TAG students, the Cooke Elementary Custodial staff, BSEC, and parent volunteers came together to make the day a success. The fact that it was chili day did not deter the TAG students, who eagerly investigated the waste in order to find the information that would let them develop an action plan for reducing waste.

What the students found was staggering: the school’s 653  students in grades K - 5 produced 153 pounds of trash and 13 pounds of recycling from just one day of cafeteria waste, and 33.4 pounds of liquid waste from emptied water and milk bottles. Using these numbers, we can estimate that in one week, the school produces 653 pounds of trash, 65 pounds of recycled materials, and 167 pounds of liquid waste. Imagine what those numbers are in a school year? But this is only a single school! As parent volunteer Lisa Call said, “Imagine how much is wasted in Delaware alone, not to mention the rest of the country.”

These numbers motivated TAG students to immediately pull together plans for how to reduce the amount of waste produced. Ms. Szegda and her students will develop an action plan for making changes to reduce waste and increase recycling. They will implement changes and conduct a second waste audit in the spring to compare their results with this first one.  According to one student, "We want the cafeteria to stop using styrofoam lunch trays. They get used once and then sit in a landfill for thousands of years after!”

Students were surprised by how much food was thrown away each day. “After combing through unopened snack bags, unpeeled bananas, and half eaten lunches,” noted Ms Szegda, “they had a real ah-ha moment.”  The students learned that the average American throws out 4.4 pounds of trash a day. After seeing the food waste, students began to think about more sustainable and affordable solutions. Giving students only as much food as they will eat and encouraging students to use the "share bin" would help reduce the amount of food that would end up in a landfill each day.

The students found some positive data too: almost everything that was put into the recycling was recyclable. They now know, however, just how big their task is. Over the coming weeks, Ms. Szedga and her students will look more closely at waste and help teach others about what they can do to lessen their environmental footprint. The students will review the data from the audit and develop an action plan for reducing the waste.  Ms Szedga reflected, “Making effective change always takes hard work, but I’m sure the students will use their creative energy and enthusiasm to show others how to make Red Clay a greener place.”

Article submitted by Sam York, intern of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.

Three strikes, LIGHTS OUT!!

Three strikes, LIGHTS OUT!!

It can be difficult to find ways to engage students in environmental sustainability projects, but adding some friendly competition can go a long way. The Fenn School in Concord, Massachusetts is using America’s favorite past-time, baseball, to encourage their students to be more conscious of electricity use.

SCH Academy Wins National Sustainability Award

SCH Academy Wins National Sustainability Award

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy recently earned the Green Flag award from the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program, making it the first independent school in Pennsylvania to win this award for sustainability progress. SCH’s green footprints have been purposeful over the past two decades. Its initiatives have extended from the classroom to the roofs and from the cafeterias to the Wissahickon Watershed. In 2012, the U. S. Department of Education recognized SCH as a Green Ribbon School. SCH joined the Eco-Schools USA program in order to have additional benchmarks to accelerate progress.

People, Planet, Profit: Friends’ Central School Swings for a Green Home Run

People, Planet, Profit: Friends’ Central School Swings for a Green Home Run

Friends’ Central School recently launched an energy saving project on both of its Wynnewood campuses, projected to save 38% of energy used annually. Equal to 9,100 million BTU’s, these savings are the equivalent of eliminating the carbon emissions of 3,000,000 miles driven by passenger cars, or the carbon absorption of 30,000 trees for 10 years.

How to Reduce Printer Waste at Your School

How much paper do you use in a single year? A single piece of paper doesn’t seem like much - but it can quickly add up. In fact, the average person in the United States uses over 700 pounds of paper products in a single year! That means the average American will go through nearly 2 pounds of paper a day. SCH Academy students and faculty tackled the school’s printer waste in their “Think Before You Print Campaign.” 

Getting Students Unplugged and Outside

Getting Students Unplugged and Outside

Mary Ann Boyer and Kristin Kaye of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants presented "Science and Storytelling: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Environmental Literacy" at the NSTA’s conference in Baltimore earlier this month. Boyer and Kaye shared their experiences on how scientific observation and storytelling open students’ eyes to the natural world. "Getting students outside and unplugged is important to their connection with nature," notes Boyer.