Native red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) take hold along
The solution: Broward’s Environmental Strategic Plan, adopted last June.
"It was a blueprint to, 1) Make sure everybody was on the same page, and 2) Make sure it was important to all of us," Parks says.
Parks wanted to save the planet, and save money. He wanted the school system to teach children environmental values, and to demonstrate those values through daily operations.
Environmental stewardship became one of the system’s seven critical goals, on par with student achievement, employee excellence and safety.
Now Broward is installing waterless urinals, low-flow toilets and solar parking lights. It’s recycling everything from cardboard to bus parts. A new elementary school will have a photovoltaic solar roof.
Students are planting Florida-native butterfly gardens, riverfront mangroves and oceanfront sea grapes. They’re maintaining preserves for burrowing owls and gopher tortoises.
Meanwhile, the school system reduced its electrical consumption in the fall term of 2008 by 7% over the same months the year before, saving $23,000. Broward’s paper recycling program is saving some $750,000 a year in avoided disposal costs, and the equivalent of 33,000 trees.
"It’s not a top-down initiative," says Parks. "The push is really coming from students and teachers."
A former high school teacher and native of Key West, Parks was declared the school system’s environmentalist of the month in the June newsletter of the school system’s science department. The newsletter called Parks “a bonafide tree hugger.”
"I see this district being a leader in implementation of green initiatives," Parks says. "We believe that this is important for the future of our kids, and the future of this planet."
GARY S. HINES is the environmental resources manager in the Facilities and Construction Management Department of the Broward County (Fla.) Public Schools.