This year our student-lead environmental club (Green Panthers) has started a greenhouse restoration project that will eventually become self-sustaining. We are taking an abandoned greenhouse on campus and turning it into an environmental model for demonstrating clean, green living. Composting barrels will be placed throughout the cafeteria to collect organic refuse which will be transported to a main compost pile near the green house. This will provide a sustainable source of future fertilizer and soil for the greenhouse plants. The greenhouse will be irrigated by a campus water harvesting system. The greenhouse will ignite environmental awareness throughout campus and promote campus-wide student involvement in our greenhouse rehabilitation project. We hope to ultimately host a bi-annual Farmers Market where we will sell locally grown organic vegetables and herbs to teachers, parents and the surrounding community that will take place in the school’s main courtyard. While the project itself is our main focus, our definitive goal is to create a school culture of environmental awareness and promote resource conservation.
Our Title One School (low socio-economic community) is located in an urban, densely populated neighborhood. Many of our students lack basic environmental awareness and don’t understand the significance of the personal choices they make. Living sustainability is not a priority for our classmates (many students don’t recycle, produce lots of waste, exploit resources, etc.). The greenhouse project will spark interest and discussion among our students. The compost barrels will educate many of our students about recycling organic waste along with the cisterns, which demonstrate water harvesting. Students will then be able to transfer these recycling habits they experience at school into their household.
By harvesting rain water and composting food waste/landscape trimmings, we will maximize our natural resource use and minimize costs for our district. Reduction of waste products will also decrease trash pick-up, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and landfill dumping. By composting, we will avoid having to buy soil and use chemical fertilizers, thus keeping our products organic and healthy.
With many fast food restaurants and franchise grocery stores around, most of the surrounding community has never bought locally grown organic produce. The bi-annual Amphitheater Framers Markers will engage our neighborhood and introduce them to the idea of buying locally, hopefully leading to increased support for local farmers in Tucson. Our greenhouse project will be open to elementary schools for curriculum purposes. By providing an atmosphere of conservation on campus students will become better acquainted with nature and their role within it.
Last year, a friend and I decided to start an Environmental Club at our school. Today the “Green Panthers” is comprised of twenty passionate members who consistently show up to weekly meetings and fulfill their duties no matter how minute. We established a campus-wide recycling program (a surprisingly difficult task) in the school year 2008-2009. This now allows our school population to recycle most materials. We began to brainstorm other methods to further reduce our school’s waste generation. After investigating, we determined that the majority of the waste material in the dumpsters is from landscaping. We decided that a composting system where students and employees sort their refuse into compost barrels would amend these predicaments. One of our advisors harvests water in his home and recommended that we set up a water harvesting cistern. We later discovered that our school has an abandoned greenhouse stationed in the back. The greenhouse restoration project, in conjunction with the composting and water harvesting strategies are parallel projects that will we hope will yield powerful results.
1) We started by creating a project plan. We first visited the greenhouse to determine its current state. We identified the materials we would need to fix things up and the equipment needed for gardening. We realized that we would first need to clean out and repair the greenhouse. After that, we developed a timeline for work and created a budget.
2) The first phase of our project is making the greenhouse operable. We need to fix the swamp coolers, clean the windows and floors and re-do the irrigation lines.
3) Next, we will set up our compost pile and water cisterns. For the composting, we will first need to put bins around the cafeteria for food waste and place a large dumpster near the trash for landscaping trimmings. Then, we will mark out an area next to the greenhouse for a large compost pile. We will prepare the soil and start composting. In order to harvest water, we will need to set up a gutter system and drainage along roof edges. We need to buy a couple cisterns to place under gutters.
4) Once everything above is in place, we will begin our gardening.
5) When ready, we will harvest our crop.
6) This is the point where we will host the Amphitheater Farmer’s Market for our local community.
7) While all of this is happening, we will also be publicizing our work around campus and throughout the community.
Amphitheater School District has provided a foundation for our project; there is already an abandoned greenhouse on our campus. Our administration has given us permission to renovate and supports the greening of our campus. Students have already shown interest and initiative by supporting our new recycling system and now we want campus-wide participation in composting organic food waste. The composting barrels across campus will symbolize our enlightened society. Our environmental club has begun to work in conjunction with other programs on campus. The Freshman Program focuses on character development through community gardening; they will be working on a school garden which will utilize such resources as our compost pile and greenhouse. In addition, teachers will be invited to bring their classes to the greenhouse for hands-on coursework. Science classes, in particular, will eventually have easy access to a model environmental project located on campus which will connect with their curriculum.
The student’s job would be to recuperate the greenhouse, which would include cleaning the greenhouse, washing windows, repairing the irrigation system, and fixing the swamp coolers for temperature control. Students will start gardening; they will first research which plants to grow and the basic maintenance of these plants. Then, they will buy the seeds and plant them. After the seeds are planted, the environmental club members and the participating freshman program will properly care for the plants. The students will be responsible for the initial set up of a water harvesting system. They will mount gutters on roof edging to harvest rain water and arrange for the water to be moved from the cisterns to the greenhouse irrigation system. Students will also be in charge of collecting biodegradable items such as leftover fruits, bread, and vegetable peels. The organic waste will accumulate in compost barrels provided around the cafeteria and then transported to a large composite site. There, they will mix the organic matter with the local dirt to produce nourishing, nutrient rich soil for the greenhouse. In addition, a student run announcement team will promote and help advertise the greenhouse program and ensure that compost barrel prospects are understood and properly used. If we succeed, the students will harvest their produce and organize a sale for the Amphitheater community.
The greenhouse will eventually become self-sufficient. Many components of this project must coalesce for sustainability. The perpetual compost system will have a most dramatic impact on our campus as well as our greenhouse. Not only will our greenhouse have a constant supply of organic soil, we are also reducing our waste generation. Arizona is a dry state with limited seasonal rains. The greenhouse will minimize city water consumption by using cisterns to store monsoon rain harvested by gutters along roof-edging. Financially, the revenue that the Farmers Market produces will be invested back into the greenhouse. If our budget allows it, eventually we would like to install solar panels to help generate electricity to fuel the heating and cooling system. In conclusion, our greenhouse requires a constant supply of soil and water, which we will produce on site with minimal financial input.
School wide involvement in this project will make it easy to transfer environmental awareness into our community. As students learn more about gardening, composting, water harvesting and recycling, they will then take this knowledge back into their homes. Our urban community will also have the opportunity to purchase local, organic, student-grown produce. With each success of our project, we will be able to grow and expand, and increasingly impact more people. When all greenhouse components are functioning well, we will host evening seminars for parents who would like to learn about gardening and sustainability. During these seminars we will explain why we have started the greenhouse project and tell parents what they can do at home to aid our “green” efforts. Local elementary schools will be able to visit our campus and develop environmentally friendly habits at a young age. With the knowledge gained, they will be able to readily assimilate into an environmentally friendly lifestyle.