Hingham High School Green Team Kicks It Up A Notch!
Since 2007, the Hingham High School Green Committee has brought together students, faculty, administrators and community members to reduce the environmental impact of the school and raise awareness about environmental concerns. The Green Committee’s programs are designed to promote sustainability on a personal and institutional level, encourage student engagement with the natural world, and spread the word about responsible environmental stewardship.
Beyond the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle All Kinds of Resources
With financial support from both our local water utility (Aquarion Water Company) and the PTO, Hingham High School installed three filtered water bottle filling stations. These hydration stations led to a massive reduction in the use of single-use plastic water bottles. The school collects recyclables (aluminum, plastic, and paper) are collected throughout the building, with student volunteers collecting from all classrooms. Additionally, the school completely eliminated polystyrene lunch trays, replacing them with compostable trays. Students compost all fruit and vegetable waste collected in the cafeteria. The finished compost has been used in the development of a school garden and sold at the local farmers’ market to help fund the cafeteria's move from polystyrene trays to compostable trays and plates.
The HHS Green Team has also sponsored a wide variety of recycling drives for items, such as sneakers and shoes (through Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program), soccer equipment (through a local resident traveling to Haiti), and baseball and softball equipment (in an annual campaign co-sponsored by Jordan's Furniture and the Red Sox Foundation). HHS has performed exceptionally well in such drives, as evidenced by consecutive victories over neighboring schools (including the collection of more than 1300 pairs of shoes) in recent sneaker drives, and three consecutive victories in the annual “Play Ball Campaign” that sends gently used baseball and softball equipment to the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) Foundation in Boston, MA. Winning the latter has led to exciting prizes, including a school visit by Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster.
Farming the Campus and Connecting to Nature
The Green Committee has helped transform an empty campus courtyard into a burgeoning green space. Students in woodshop classes constructed a series of raised beds from reclaimed lumber. They used money collected from redeeming bottles and cans to start a small orchard last fall. Most recently, we constructed a greenhouse with partial funding from a National Geographic and Sunchips grant. This spring, students from environmental science and biology classes look forward to planting in the greenhouse and courtyard.
The Hingham School District Administration has supported the goals of the Green Committee by making sustainable capital improvements and resource decisions. As a result, the high school has shown a steady decline in electricity usage over the past five years. New motion-sensor lamps in gymnasium, smart strips on computers, and the installation of variable speed drives on the HVAC system have resulted in both cost and energy savings. Additionally, our custodial staff is piloting the use of safer, more environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Educating the Community
To build spirit and motivation, the Green Committee organizes yearly environmental teach-ins, Green Week, and friendly competitions like “Slash the Trash.” The teach-ins and Green Week involve teachers focusing lessons in their subject on an environmental theme, as well as guest speakers, films, and trainings in gardening, raised bed construction and composting from local organic farmers. Additionally, during these special events students who makemore sustainable decisions such as carpooling, biking to school or using a refillable bottle are rewarded with raffle tickets for goods donated by local merchants.
Members of HHS sports teams regularly supervise the cafeteria’s recycling/composting/trash stations in seasonal “Slash the Trash” competitions to see which team can reduce school lunchtime waste while increasing recycling. The teams have greatly boosted the school's waste reduction efforts. All of these activities build school community, encourage sustainable behavior and result in positive environmental outcomes.
Although Hingham has much to be proud of, the Green Committee is not resting on its sustainably harvested laurels. One day at dismissal time, without prior notice, a small group of student volunteers donned full-body “Haz-Mat” suits to rummage through piles of school trash, pulling out items that should have been recycled or composted. The now-famous “Trash Mob” captured the attention of hundreds of students as well as the local press. The audit revealed that although HHS is already diverting most potentially recyclable and compostable items from the cafeteria trash, there remains plenty of room for improvement.