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Students are seeking Oregon Green School certification and promoting sustainability

COURTESY PHOTO - LOHS students sorted food and trash at lunch to look for ways to cut down on waste.Students in the Lake Oswego School District are known to stand up for what they believe in, especially when they see a lack of adult action. This time, they're standing up for sustainability.

Lake Oswego High School students formed a Green Team in January. They now have about 15 members and are working toward Oregon Green School certification.

In order to become certified as a Green School, you must have a staff member leader, coordinate with Oregon Green Schools to help develop future steps and create a plan detailing what your goals are for recycling, waste reduction and resource conservation, and how your school will meet them.

"Students just put out a survey discussing their goals and asking for feedback from students and teachers," said Liz Welsh, an LOHS parent who is helping lead the Green Team. "The students involved are really excited and there's a lot of momentum right now."

Some of the Green Team's current goals are to develop an action plan for sustainability

at LOHS, get more climate change science into the curriculum and increase the school board's investment in sustainability.

After identifying their goals, schools must then apply to be recognized at the Green, Merit or Premier level. Green level schools meet basic criteria, while Merit and Premier-level schools have more developed, far-reaching programs and activities.

Welsh said the Green Team anticipates receiving entry-level certification in the next few weeks, and will present the news to the school board at its meeting May 20.

Currently, seven out of Lake Oswego's ten schools are certified Green Schools. Lakeridge Middle School is the only secondary green school. All five elementary schools are certified: Forest Hills, Lake Grove, River Grove and Westridge are all Green level, while Oak Creek and Hallinan are Premier.

At the elementary level, Green Teams consist of young students interested in learning about what they can do to be eco-friendly and teaching others in the school how to do so. Rick Griest, a Hallinan teacher who retired in 2018, helped Hallinan develop the team and achieve its top tier Premier Green School status.COURTESY PHOTO - Green Team member Elena Lee (center) sorts classmates trash during the waste audit.

At Lake Oswego High School, current student efforts are being overseen by Welsh and Spanish and social studies teacher Breck Foster, who said she is excited to see students talking about climate change. "Climate change can be overwhelming, but every social movement throughout history has had youth involved in driving it," she said. "The kids are so excited about getting to do something to address climate change, because they're genuinely fearful for their future."

At the high school level, Green Teams must be student-propelled in order to get off the ground, which is why Welsh thinks they are more popular in the elementary schools.

"The students have been working really hard, and have a lot of great ideas," Welsh said. "They're the driving force."

The Green Team held a waste audit April 5 during lunch in order to evaluate the school's waste as part of the planning for Green School certification.

According to Oregon Green Schools, a waste audit is an important first step in increasing sustainability, because if you know what is being thrown out, and from where, you can make a plan for reducing and recycling.

"Some changes are huge and some are minor, but they all make some difference," Welsh said.

This Earth Day, the Green Team handed out sprouted seedlings to students as they left school for the day. "They're hoping to get more kids on the team and fired up in the same way they are," Welsh said.

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