Now in its 51st year, Earth Day is an opportunity to reflect on environmental awareness, education and sustainability efforts to reduce pollution and waste for a healthier and cleaner environment. In recognition of this day, the NewsFlash team recently sat down with IUSD’s Sustainability Supervisor, Jennifer Razo, to discuss some of the District’s sustainability programs and initiatives.
NewsFlash: Tell us more about IUSD’s Sustainability Team.
Razo: From energy efficiency to recycling, IUSD and our Sustainability Team are dedicated to making our schools and facilities more eco-friendly and sustainable, while educating students and staff about how their daily activities impact the environment. Our practices to achieve these important goals include implementing solar energy at various school sites, maintaining energy efficient buildings and facilities, recycling, eliminating harmful plastic straws and other waste that crowds our landfills, encouraging school gardens and educational activities to help students cultivate eco-friendly habits, and responsible use of water and landscaping at our facilities, among many other initiatives.
NewsFlash: Can you talk about IUSD’s Solar Program and the District’s renewable energy commitment?
Razo: IUSD’s solar program has increased the District’s use of renewable energy, decreased our carbon footprint and saved more than $2 million.
- We are working toward a net-zero electricity goal, which aims to use as much solar energy as possible.
- To date, the District has 42 solar arrays (21 rooftops and 21 carports) at 32 sites. IUSD’s plans for solar energy expansion includes three more solar carport installations, which have been approved by the Board of Education for the summer of 2021.
- IUSD solar efforts avoid CO2 admissions and result in energy savings for the District.
NewsFlash: What is IUSD doing regarding recycling and waste reduction?
Razo: IUSD continues to implement initiatives to reduce waste and increase recycling, including:
- IUSD eliminated single-use plastic water bottles and plastic straws districtwide. Sites are now using boxed water and products that do not require straws.
- To encourage reusable water bottles, IUSD has installed 126 water bottle filling stations throughout the District.
- All sites have mixed waste recycling bins.
- The District established an organic waste recycling program and holds an annual electronic recycling event, where funds are used to support IUSD’s Green Team Program.
- To encourage recycling of clothes and shoes, IUSD has placed 25 textile-recycling bins at various sites.
NewsFlash: How is IUSD managing water use and landscaping ?
Razo: According to the Irvine Ranch Water District, more than 60 percent of Irvine’s water is used outdoors and the best way to conserve water is to use water-wise landscaping, efficient irrigation and reclaimed water. To this end, IUSD is engaged in the following practices and initiatives:
- IUSD saves millions of gallons of potable water annually using reclaimed water for irrigation.
- Water is saved by using drip irrigation, automatic irrigation controls, flow sensors and master valves.
- Drought-tolerant plants have been integrated into the outdoor landscaping.
- IUSD developed a Progressive Pest Management Program, for IUSD landscape and building maintenance, which goes beyond Integrated Pest Management Plans. In addition to being compliant with the Healthy Schools Act, IUSD uses non-chemical, organic and non-toxic methods as a first choice and we have banned certain pesticides.
- The District established a community-based Pest Management Committee, which includes IUSD staff and representatives from Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, the City of Irvine and the University of California, Irvine. The committee meets to review and discuss pest management best practices to continually improve the District’s Progressive Pest Management Program.
- Fertilization and weed control is 100 percent organic, as a first choice, districtwide providing safe and healthy playing spaces.
- IUSD promotes school gardens to educate students and provide hands-on learning.
NewsFlash: What is your team doing to provide education for school sites and students?
Razo: We work closely with our schools sites on the solar, energy reduction, recycling, waste reduction, water use and landscaping initiatives previously discussed. We also encourage school gardens and educational activities to help students understand and implement eco-friendly habits, and responsible use of water and landscaping at our facilities, among many other initiatives.
Our annual Earth Day student poster contest allows students to express actions that make a difference now and into the future. Our hope is that students know and see that their daily actions can result in positive change for the environment.
To learn more about how IUSD works toward protecting the environment every day of the year, not just on Earth Day, visit iusd.org/sustainability.