White House Honors Centre County Elementary Students, Pittsburgh H.S. Student
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality Tuesday recognized 18 teachers and 63 students from across the country for their outstanding contributions to environmental education and stewardship at a special White House ceremony.
Among the winners of the President’s Environmental Youth Award Winners were students from Park Forest Elementary’s Zero Waste Team in Centre County and Rohan Chalasani, a student at Fox Chapel High School in Pittsburgh, who studied the impact of energy consumption reduction on household carbon footprints.
— Park Forest Elementary Zero Waste Team: Inspired by neighboring Pennsylvania State University’s sustainability efforts and a challenge from their principal, Park Forest Elementary School Zero Waste Team members are leading the charge to make their school become waste free.
(Photo: Elijah Snyder, Adam Cooper, Robert Rothrock & Adam Lieb.)
To begin, the students collaborated with Pennsylvania State University to conduct a waste audit. After analyzing the data and developing a waste reduction plan, the Zero Waste Team began the “Are You Sure?” educational campaign to challenge students and staff to reduce waste and properly dispose of items that could be repurposed, recycled, or composted.
Students’ goals included recycling milk bottles, plastic bags, disposable coffee pods, and other hard-to-recycle items.
Another part of the waste reduction plan included composting: classroom waste in worm bins (also called vermicomposting), garden and yard waste in outside containers, and lunch room organic waste collected by a commercial composter.
The Zero Waste Team also encouraged students and staff to use only one paper towel each after washing to dry their hands, and to compost those paper towels.
As a result of the Zero Waste effort, the Park Forest Elementary School recycled 470 pounds of metal cans, 1,695 pounds of plastic bottles, and 9,660 pounds of mixed paper in 2015.
While the school still produces some waste, there are measurable improvements from the Are You Sure? challenge. First, the school no longer fills its dumpster as quickly.
The refuse truck arrives just two times per week versus five and the school’s waste disposal bills decreased from $534 to $261 per month.
As current students prepare to transition to middle school, they mentor new student leaders in order to maintain and expand the success of the Zero Waste Team. Additionally, the Zero Waste Team is working with their county waste professionals to replicate the Are You Sure? challenge and bring proven practices to neighboring schools.
— Rohan Chalasani, Impact Of Energy Consumption Reduction On Household Carbon Footprints: Rohan, a junior at Fox Chapel High School in Pittsburgh, completed this project after becoming interested in the impact of an individual household on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation.
He investigated the impact of relatively hassle-free, energy-saving methods on a single household’s environmental footprint.
Rohan conducted an experiment over the course of two weeks, breaking down energy-conserving methods into three areas: electricity, natural gas, and water.
The first week, he measured the energy consumption in the household with no conservation actions taken.
The second week, Rohan lowered the thermostat by 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit, unplugged appliances at night, reduced light use, and shortened shower times to 10 minutes per shower.
Rohan calculated that the household experienced a 23 percent reduction in its total carbon dioxide emissions due to the energy-conservation actions.
He found that while taking a shorter shower had a minimal effect on energy usage, reducing natural gas had significant effects on the household’s total carbon footprint, contributing to a 75 percent total reduction.
Rohan extrapolated the results of his experiment to show that if 50 percent of households implemented his same methods, the United States could see a 200 million metric-ton reduction in total carbon dioxide emissions.
This is the equivalent of reducing emissions from 4.1 million barrels of oil. Rohan’s results underscore that small actions taken by many individuals have the potential to yield measurable greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Click Here for more information on the EPA award announcement.
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