Tag Archive: Education


Even the youngest of Chapel Hill’s residents will now be carrying on the town’s image of being environmentally focused.

Officials from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ sustainability committee are considering a program to compost food at local schools.

The committee conducted an audit at Estes Hills Elementary School last week to see how much and what types of compostable trash students throw away.

The audit aimed to see if the district can collect the 4,000 pounds of trash it would need to generate each month to join Carolina Dining Services and local restaurants in a program that composts food waste.

Based on a November audit, one school’s kitchen made just 650 pounds of compostable trash, not enough to make collection cost-effective.

To collect enough waste, the schools are now looking past the kitchen — and into the cafeteria.

See the rest of the article at the Daily Tar Heel.

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Morrison Residence Hall may have won an Environmental Protection Agency national award for energy reduction last year, but the building’s environmentally friendly upgrades did not live up to initial expectations.

Hot water producing solar panels were added to the residence hall in 2006. The student-run renewable energy special projects committee contributed $185,600 and the N.C. Energy Office contributed $137,000 toward the project, said Assistant Director of Facilities Steve Lofgren.

During an annual tour of the rooftop solar panels held Saturday, Lofgren said green upgrades to the building were not straightforward.

The project designer was not well equipped to plan the unusually large installation and the company that sold the panels would not provide input, Lofgren said.

This led to a system with less than optimal hot water output.

“They thought they knew what they were doing but they didn’t completely,” Lofgren said. “The university had to step up.”

Even though facility service workers weren’t trained to deal with the system, engineers worked hard to become more knowledgeable and to make improvements, he said.

The solar system – originally intended to provide hot water to faucets, showers and washers  – was tied to the building’s heating and cooling system by university engineers.

This regularly decreases the amount of steam the university’s cogeneration power plant needs to provide to the residence hall.

The 172 rooftop solar panels now provide an average of 40 percent of the building’s hot water usage, according to a UNC-CH sustainability office press release.

In September, the system reduced carbon dioxide output by 15,201 pounds, according to a document from the department of Housing and Residential Education. This is about the same amount of carbon dioxide that comes from burning 760 gallons of gasoline.

“We didn’t get it right out of the gate,” Lofgren said. “It’s a learning institution and it caused the institution to do some learning, and that’s always a good thing.”

To go beyond the rooftop panels in advancing Morrison Residence Hall’s sustainability mission, building leaders are competing in the Residential Green Games this year, Morrison Community Director Taris Mullins said.

The Residential Green Games is an environmental competition that seeks to promote sustainable behavioral change and education in UNC-CH residence halls.

“Morrison Community is not leading Green Games, we are doing quite well so far this year,” Mullins said. “We encourage sustainability in a number of ways through bulletin boards, encouraging residents to bring their own items to programs, and also looking for creative ways to reduce our footprint in the community.”

Luz Cuaboy, a Morrison resident who attended the tour, said she appreciated the green focus of the building even though the expense of the hot water producing solar panels surprised her.

“I think the cost is justified,” Cuaboy said “Over a long period of time, it’s going to do some good.”

Last week, eighth grade students from Culbreth Middle School completed their first round of water quality testing on a small stream located at the bottom of drainage basin behind the school.

The Town of Chapel Hill, UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for the Environment and local science teachers were all involved in making the event happen, allowing students to learn about community problems from community members.

“We’ve combined all of our resources to provide more resources to teachers,” said Wendy Smith, stormwater management and environmental education coordinator for the Town.

Students spent two days completing on site testing for dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, nitrates and temperature as they study their water quality unit, according to a press release.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Rob Greenberg, Chapel Hill High School science teacher, said hands on education is the key to understanding the environment.

His students create model islands that have features for green living and display them during Chapel Hill Earth Action Days every year.

“I try to make it meaningful and relevant, Greenberg said. “There’s a lot of art in science.”

Greenberg said he utilizes resources from the Town, such as Wendy Smith, to bring in outside perspectives.

“I’ve always felt lucky to live in Chapel Hill,” Greenberg said. “I make an effort to tap the resources of this community.”

Smith said she comes into high schools on request and has specialized programs in the second, fifth and eighth grades where she teaches about water pollution and shows environmental models.

“The kids are so smart these days,” Smith said. “It’s really fun because you get that excitement with kids who really know a lot already.”

Haw River Assembly

The Haw River Assembly, a local group engaged in preservation activities, follows a similar philosophy.

For more than 20 years, the organization has hosted students from around the area to learn about the Haw River.

Students catch and identify a local organisms, measure the pH of the water, analyze the effects of runoff and turn sedimentary rocks from the river into paint.

“Ninety-nine percent of the projects we do are hands on,” Watershed Education Coordinator Donna Myers said. “Our programs really empower youth, or participants of any age, with knowledge of things they can actually do in their neighborhood later that day.”

Seawell, McDougle and Morris Grove Elementary Schools participated in the 2011 Haw River Learning Celebration which ended Friday, Myers said.

The organization also brings environmental models into classrooms and provides training for teachers.

UNC-CH Institute for the Environment

Representatives from the UNC-CH Institute for the Environment organized and taught two workshops to promote water quality education.

“This was a great opportunity to support the science teachers in promoting hands-on science activities and to encourage scientific curiosity in the students,” said Michele Drostin, project coordinator of the environmental resource program.

The workshops were developed in collaboration with the Haw River Assembly, Friends of Bolin Creek and the Town of Chapel Hill. They included hands-on training in watershed mapping and stream monitoring.

The workshops also stressed how school grounds contribute to runoff and stream pollutants.

“This workshop demonstrated the opportunities for hands-on, outdoor water science activities for schools that do not have a natural stream or wetland available to them,” Drostin said.