Red Lodge “Green Team” wins first place for State Green Schools Challenge

For their implementation of reusable cups to eliminate waste at sporting events, Red Lodge “Green Team” was awarded first place and $650 from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Mont ana Chapt e r, Gr e e n Schools Challenge. On March 24, Middle School Science teacher and Green Team advisor, Pamela Nell traveled to the annual Montana Environmental Education Association conference held at Montana Tech in Butte to receive the award and congratulations for their hard work.

In October, Red Lodge High School Environmental Science teacher, Kate Belinda and Nell took on the “monumental task” t o “Gr e en our Sp o r t ing Events.”

“As part of this project, concessions started offering a reusable Rams cup to try and reduce the amount of nonrenewable resource being consumed and lower our waste stream,” Belinda said. For $3, game attendees from home and visiting teams can purchase cups, which include free refills. The project was initiated after Belinda and some students performed a dumpster dive after a football game and found that 50 percent of the trash from the game was recyclable material.

In January they officially launched the program and soon formed a “Green Team,” with Kryn Dykema, Liam Gildehouse, Katie Nell from RLHS and Sarah Lauf, Tucker Kane and Maya Little-Proeller from Roosevelt Middle School with Pam and Kirt Nell. Because of the unique nature of the project, “Wendy Weaver with the U.S. Green Building Council r eque s t ed Red Lodge Schools present [the] project at the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference in Helena.”

The students explained the project, detailed data and collection methods and discussed the future of the project.

In March, the project was formally submitted to the Montana Green Schools Challenge.

According to the press release, “The competition invited Montana schools, classes or groups to form a team to green their school, with the goal of saving energy and other resources, lower operating costs, and positively impacting their community to design, implement and report on a project that met these goals.”

Due to the creativity and functionality of the project, RLHS won the challenge.

Belinda reported that, “Throughout the basketball season and tournament, a total of 492 cups had been sold.” While they were unable to document the number of refills sold during the s eas on, the y assumed the cups were refilled at least once, resulting in almost 1000 unused cans. They then used a ratio of 32 aluminum cans to equal one pound and found “approximately 31pounds of aluminum was not consumed at our sporting events.’’

Although the project still has some items to address (i.e. people forgetting to bring the reusable cups to the game, completely eliminating aluminum cans and Gatorade size availability), Belinda is optimistic the school can continue to improve and lessen its environmental impact.

“We are no way done with the endeavor of ‘Greening our Sporting Events,’ we have just completed the first step! We need to work to continue to change the public mindset regarding recycling.

I think our new goal is to have no recyclable materials found in trashcans at our sporting events. We believe recycling must become more of a priority at the younger ages to see a more concerted effort of r e cyc l ing at spo r t ing events.”

She hopes to build ideas with the “Green Team” and potentially make it a school club for next year. “I think there is power in numbers and it would be great to get more kids involved.”

Sponsored by Wells Fargo, over 13 schools from across the state participated.

“Wells Fargo is proud to sponsor the Green Schools Challenge,” said Michael Conlon, district manager for Wells Fargo in Bozeman and Butte. “As a judge for this event, I was impressed by the thoughtful, far-ranging ideas students offered to gain ef f iciencies, save resources and money, and enhance the lives of Montanans.”

Other winning schools included: Big Fork High School, who won the $500 second place award for their newly created garden club; $350, third place prize was awarded to Billings Career Center for implementing a recycling program; Bozeman High School, Ennis High School, and Butte’s East Middle School were all runner up winners, each winning $150 cash award.

“We want Montana student s , educator s , and administrators to think analytically about how ‘green’ their classrooms are and expand that across thei r ent i re campus , ” Weamer stated. “We want to encourage high performance buildings, healthy learning environments, and to inspire students embrace environmental systems thinking. We are working hard towards Green Schools for all Montana students. It starts with the Montana Green Schools Challenge.”