Healthy Schools Projects

Linda Countryman
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Prevention & Assistance Division

Three Minnesota schools reduce pollution and save energy and money. Houston Public Schools in southeastern Minnesota, Pine Point Elementary on the White Earth Reservation, and Hutchinson High School took part in a recently finished pilot project to develop a healthier, more sustainable work and study environment in schools. These schools were part of a grant to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the Healthy Schools project.

Participants report that the Healthy Schools project shows how even simple, low cost changes in the way a school operates can make a school’s environment healthier, model environmental stewardship and save money.

Some results include :

– Houston Elementary Schools recovered 3.75 tons of recyclable materials out of its normal waste stream in the first four months of implementing a school-wide recycling program. The Houston elementary and high schools will save money in waste hauling next year, since more is being recycled and less is going in the trash.
– Pine Point and Houston chose a single “green” product for general cleaning and disinfecting, replacing five more toxic cleaning products that were being used. Hutchinson High School experimented with steam cleaning which eliminates using cleaning chemicals.
– Houston school’s no-idling policy for buses stopped unnecessary idling, reduced CO2 emissions, and even earned praise from neighbors and teachers who appreciated the new peace and quiet – a triple win for the community.

Each of the participating schools had a dedicated site coordinator and project leader whose goals included switching to less toxic cleaning materials, reducing kitchen waste, improving energy efficiency, reducing school bus emissions, modifying pest management practices, collecting wastes for composting and recycling, removing mercury and other hazardous wastes from the schools, and measuring potential improvements to student health and attendance.

The schools partnered with agencies and organizations to help them accomplish their goals. Some of their partners included Minnesota Departments of Health, Education and Agriculture, Clean Air Minnesota, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Preventing Harm Minnesota.

In addition, the Donaldson Company donated one diesel bus retrofit kit to each school to reduce emissions and improve air quality. These retrofits will serve as a model for installing future diesel retrofits. Also, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s mercury-detecting dog, Clancy, visited all three schools. He sniffed out hidden mercury spills, including a mercury-leaking blood pressure cuff in an elementary school nurse’s office.

Outcomes of these projects will be shared at conferences around the state of Minnesota and resources will be promoted this Fall. Visit the Minnesota Healthy Schools web site below for updates. While project partners work to expand the effort into a statewide program, parents, teachers, officials and students can go to this site for resources on what each do to make environmental changes toward a healthier schools in our communities.

Act Locally
MN Pollution Control Agency – Prevention and Assistance Division
Linda Countryman
651-757-2292 or 800-657-3864
Healthy Schools

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