Friday, January 25, 2013

Bright Green Futures Grants Awarded to 3 Local Schools

Imagine a project that takes the condensation from a school’s air conditioning unit, stores it in rain barrels, and then uses the water to irrigate sustainable plants.

This thought becomes a reality through one project made possible by Bright Green Futures, a grant program sponsored by the City of Austin’s Sustainability Office.

The Office of Sustainability announced funding for three exciting projects at area schools. Bright Green Futures will provide one elementary, one middle, and one high-school with $3,000 to support the programs goal of funding school-based sustainability projects that benefit the community.

The first award was given to Cunningham Elementary School to build and operate a community organic farm. The project, known as Partners for Education, Agriculture, and Sustainability (PEAS), will involve educators, students, parents, and other members of the community in gardening, composting, and cooking activities. In addition to learning about sustainable irrigation and organic farming practices, participants will have increased access to healthy fruits and vegetables while building stronger connections between students, local businesses, and community members.

Fulmore Middle School will use Bright Green Futures grant funding to expand a highly successful air conditioning condensate collection project. The condensate collected in rain barrels provides a self-sustaining water source for a native Texas habitat featuring drought-resistant plants on campus. The grant will allow the habitat area to be enlarged to provide additional education for Fulmore students about sustainable methods of water conservation, waste reduction, and landscaping during one of the worst droughts in Central Texas history.

The final grant was awarded to Service Learning Academy to support the school’s Texas Environmental Corps program. Funds will go toward installation of a rain garden on site. In addition to creating habitat for native species, promoting water conservation, and protecting water quality, the rain garden will provide students with the opportunity to participate in green jobs training through American Youth Works. The plan is for students to also educate others through hands-on, experiential training and education.

“We know how important sustainability is to our future. This program helps young people become lifelong stewards for their environment. It’s a great example of the creativity and partnership that defines our goal to be best-managed,” said City Manager Marc Ott. “I think it also shows how small investments can pay big dividends, and how a tiny spark can lead to big things when given the opportunity. I commend all of the schools – and all of the students – for their passion and commitment.”

The winning projects were selected by a panel of judges composed of staff from the Office of Sustainability and members of various City of Austin Boards and Commissions. Each of the funded projects is expected to be complete by the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

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