Douglas County Schools Receive Eco-Schools Honor

Two elementary schools first in Colorado to earn Green Flag award, recognized for leadership in conservation and sustainability

04-25-2013 // Judith Kohler

Copper Mesa and Flagstone elementary schools in Douglas County were awarded Green Flags Thursday from the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program for their exceptional achievement in conserving natural resources and integrating environmental education into the curriculum.

Kids love Green Schools

The schools are the first in Colorado to earn the Green Flag and just the 14th and 15th nationwide. The award is the highest in the Eco-Schools program, an international network of 41,000 K-12 schools in 53 countries. The National Wildlife Federation is the program’s US host.

"We in the regional office of the National Wildlife Federation are proud that these two Colorado schools are part of an elite group of students, faculty and staff members dedicated to 'greening’ their schools and hands-on education," said Ann Morgan, NWF’s regional executive director.

To earn the Green Flag, the schools launched several conservation initiatives, including recycling and reducing emissions and energy and water use.

"Our students and staff have worked very hard to make sustainability an integral part of who we are and we’re just thrilled to be recognized for our work," said Kelli Smith, Flagstone principal.

Lee Smit, the district’s sustainability manager, credits students for leading the charge on education efforts and intelligent management of resources.

"More than 7,000 students are running sustainability projects in their schools," Smit said. "They have developed school-specific marketing and education campaigns, challenged their peers and their staff, and worked hard to save money that can be directed back to the classroom."

Copper Mesa in Highlands Ranch saved 127,511 kilowatt hours of electricity during the past three years with the help of energy audits. The school has also saved about $400 by using both sides of copy paper and has cut waste and saved  $200 by limiting the number of paper towels used.

At Flagstone in Castle Rock, students and staff have reduced the amount of waste left from school lunches. The school provides vegetables for the community from its garden and has built and located bluebird houses in the community to enhance the birds’ population.

Also at Flagstone:

  • A parent-led campaign at Flagstone is aimed at reducing carbon monoxide emissions by not idling cars when dropping off or picking up kids.
  • Flagstone works with Red Apple Recycling by collecting shoes, clothes and other items and keeping them out of landfills.

At Copper Mesa:

  • The recycling of paper and other items has greatly increased this school year.
  • In the last month, the school has diverted more than 700 plastic water bottles from the landfill by refilling plastic bottles with water at two hydration stations. 

The Douglas County School District has also received the first-ever  Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award from the U.S. Department of Education. The district received the award Tuesday.

About Eco-Schools USA:

The program takes a holistic approach— "greening" the school building, the school grounds and the curriculum/student experience. It is designed to help schools in a variety of ways, including saving money, reducing waste and improving student academic performance and environmental awareness. Many schools have implemented the Eco-Schools USA program since NWF became the host in late 2008, some earning Bronze and Silver awards for their progress. The Green Flag is the top award a school can achieve.

About Douglas County School District:

The Douglas County School District is Colorado’s third-largest district, serving more than 60,000 students.

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