Maspeth High School was awarded the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA Green Flag April 25 for its Green Club’s accomplishments, the fifth New York City school to receive the honor and the fourth to win it this year.
“Today you join a really elite group of schools, said Emily Fano, the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA outreach manager, in presenting the flag at a school assembly attended by NWF staff members and city and state officials.
The other New York City Green Flag schools are PS 57 Staten Island, PS 146 Brooklyn, PS 154 Queens and the NYC iSchool in Manhattan.
Eco-Schools encourages schools in 60 countries to conserve natural resources and integrate environmental education into the curriculum.
To win the flag, Maspeth chose to focus on a Consumption and Waste, Energy, and Water project.
“One of the main goals we wanted for our school was to increase recycling,” said 11th-grader and Green Club President Jia Chen. The club cut holes in cardboard box-tops and installed them on top of receptacles to allow only the appropriate materials of either paper or glass, plastics and metal to be discarded.
Green Club advisor Aaron Bell chose Chen and several other students to represent the club on stage during the ceremony because they had shown leadership during the project. Singled out were ninth-graders Anny Delgado and Samira Younas, 10th-grader Thomas Farrell and 11th-graders Lulu Zhou, Iris Chen and Ymani Bethea.
Maspeth reduced trash by 1,938 pounds, which would equal 29,070 trees saved had it all been paper, Fano said. It reduced electricity use by 16,000 kilowatt hours, equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 283 tree seedlings over 10 years, and reduced water usage by 2,787 gallons, enough to fill 70 40-gallon rain barrels, Fano said.
Bell, a biology teacher and the school’s sustainability coordinator, said the project has inspired his teaching. He spent his own money on a classroom “vertical farm” indoor hydroponic garden apparatus.
“We’re making a change now. It doesn’t have to be years away,” Bell said. “We are sustainable, we can be more sustainable, but we’re doing things right now.”
Also at the assembly were state Sen.Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
Crowley awarded certificates to students who had participated in a recent Million Trees giveaway. And Addabbo told the students that legislators need their ideas.
“If you have an idea of how to protect our environment, of how to make tomorrow a better day, you let me know,” Addabbo said.
“New York City is in the forefront” of environmental efforts, said the National Wildlife Federation’s Curtis Fisher, the Regional Executive Director for the NWF’s Northeast Regional Center. “I think that leadership is in our DNA.”
The Department of Education’s director of sustainability, Sharon Jaye, presented the school with $5,000 for its achievement. She noted that Maspeth is one of only 25 U.S. Green Flag schools,.
The school will use the $5,000 to help build a new greenhouse that will slope against the school courtyard’s north wall, Bell said. The previous greenhouse had blown away because it located in an area of the property that suffers from a wind tunnel effect.
Maspeth’s Green Club began in its previous building as a few students who picked up trash after school, “which was good enough,” said Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir. Since moving to a new buildiing two years ago, the club’s efforts have grown greatly, he said.
The club also includes several District 75 special education students and their advisor, Pat Watson, who grew seedlings for the club.