Celebrating Earth Day 2021 at PPS4/22/2021
Happy Earth Day! In recognition of this annual tradition, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge all of the incredible work that students, staff, and partners are doing across the district to further our commitment to Climate Justice.
In the fall of 2019, Portland Public Schools hired the first ever Climate Change and Climate Justice Programs Manager to facilitate creating curriculum to embed this important topic into K-12 Science and Social Studies instructional units with an emphasis on the communities most impacted by the climate crisis. To date, six PPS high schools are piloting an interdisciplinary climate justice elective whereby students explore the intersections of climate science, economic and social justice, and advocacy.
Take a look at student work, here!
Student Climate Advisory Council
The PPS Youth Climate Advisory is underway! The purpose of the advisory group is to propose innovative solutions for district-wide attitudes towards climate change and utilize student experience in guiding the district with a frontline youth-focused lens regarding climate action. Their vision is to inspire PPS students to incite change through providing action opportunities to student communities and ensuring student voices are heard, represented, and acted upon. In practice, the Advisory Board meets monthly and has the opportunity to advise the superintendent on the future of climate justice within PPS.
Climate Ambassadors Program
The PPS Sustainability team also launched a new program this year for high school students interested in community based climate justice work. The Climate Ambassadors Program connects students with community leaders whose organizations work on climate justice in the greater Portland area. Students are able to interview professional organizers about what it’s like to work in climate justice related fields, how their organizations lead, what challenges they face, and what opportunities they see for the movement moving forward. It’s a chance for organizations to connect with passionate youth, and for students to practice interview skills, professional development, and make connections with community leaders. The interviews are recorded and used as learning materials for future climate justice classes.
We’ve also made big strides in creating climate friendly operational practices over the past year. At PPS, over 85% of our carbon emissions comes from gas and electricity use in buildings. In anticipation of the 2020 Bond scope, we instituted Energy & Sustainability standards for all new building design and construction. These standards will ensure the next generation of PPS schools go above and beyond building requirements related to resource efficiency, occupant health, and indoor environmental quality. All our new buildings will prepare students for the future by providing a high-quality education in a built environment that supports concepts and practices of sustainability.
Since all PPS buildings are not built at once, PPS has also taken steps to improve sustainability and energy efficiency at existing buildings. 36 buildings, with Title I schools taking priority, have been converted to all-LED lighting. Additionally, the district’s first electric school bus will be in operation next school year thanks to Portland General Electric (PGE) grant funding.
The district is also taking steps to begin a more systematic and equitable approach to installing green schoolyards, where students and teachers can gather, play, and learn about climate and sustainability. And along with one of our fabulous community partners, DePave, PPS has converted hundreds of square feet of asphalt and concrete into space for grass, gardens, and green stormwater drainage at 20 schools and counting within the past year.
Nutrition Services continues to lead the effort to ensure that meal access is available for all students, whether or not they return to school for hybrid in-person instruction or if they remain in distance learning. Nutrition Services teams have overcome having to create an entirely new system of production, distribution, and delivery to provide over 800,000 meals to students and families in need since September.
To increase the produce available to students and utilize school grounds, Nutrition Services partnered with Grow Portland to distribute the harvest from school gardens. Grow Portland collected over 2,500 pounds of food, from March through November 2020, that was redistributed to students and families in need. This year, Grow Portland has planted and harvested over 40 different varieties, created activity sheets, and provided kid friendly recipes in food distribution bags. In May, they will begin their 2021 harvest. Grow Portland is focused on producing a variety of food at each garden so students share food with their peers that reflect the cultures and communities they represent through the pandemic and beyond.
As Nutrition Services staff transition into supporting roles of in person, hybrid instruction, their teams are utilizing a food scrap collection program at every school kitchen across the district. Meal preparation at PPS is incredibly efficient already, however, knowing that decomposing food waste in landfills contributes to climate change, Nutrition Services teams are making the effort to keep any food scraps out of the landfill.
Today, our food scraps are collected by Metro and converted to compost at facilities near Salem and Corvallis. Metro will continue to pursue additional facilities closer to the greater Portland area that can convert food scraps into useful products.
PPS Sustainability Information:
‘Get Involved!’ webpage link; provides resources, student and staff opportunities, etc.