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FUHSD’s advances toward a sustainable future earn a Green Ribbon Award

FUHSD is awarded Silver for the Green Ribbon award for their progress in environmental sustainability.
Graphic illustration by Anushka Anand, Charlotte Bolay, Taek Kim, Yvonne Wu and Eileen Zhu
FUHSD is awarded Silver for the Green Ribbon award for their progress in environmental sustainability.

FUHSD earned the Green Ribbon school competition’s silver award in May for their recent progress in promoting energy conservation and environmentally sustainable practices among campuses. Initiatives include the installation of turf fields, water conservation and improvements to electrical units.

The GRS program, created by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012, recognizes school districts that have made significant efforts to focus on sustainability and health within their schools. There are three primary pillars of the GRS program that are considered when reviewing a district’s application: reduced environmental impact, health and wellness of students and staff and effective environmental and sustainability education. 

In order to be considered for an award in the GRS competition, districts must submit an application, which is sent to the state. From there, the districts’ environmental practices and responses to application questions are evaluated based on a rubric.

“There’s a lot of questions — you have to submit data and then write up narratives on what you’re doing,” FUHSD superintendent Graham Clark said. “That packet was more than 50 pages long.” 

In order to work toward the first pillar, FUHSD applied money from various bond measures towards energy-efficient additions for buildings. New construction projects, such as high-efficiency lighting and air-conditioning systems, have helped the district surpass energy efficiency standards established by the California Building Code by 5-10%. In addition, projects to replace grass sports fields with artificial turf and planting drought-resistant landscaping have reduced the district’s water consumption by 60% over the past 10 years. The district has also installed more than 100 electric vehicle chargers in parking lots across all five schools to encourage the adoption and use of electric vehicles. 

​​For the second pillar, districts that wish to win the award must also make efforts to improve student health. FUHSD began integrating nutrition, physical education, counseling and psychological services, as well as a program that ensures safety in construction and design on campus. Across all five FUHSD high schools, mental health resources like wellness centers and school-based therapists have become more accessible for students. 

“We are trying to increase our access to mental health resources, and we’ve been doing that for the past few years,” Clark said. “Wellness Centers are opening at Cupertino and Monta Vista High School this year.”

The final pillar encourages schools to provide opportunities for students to gain practical knowledge regarding environmentally sustainable practices. Courses discussing topics such as civic engagement, green careers and STEM-oriented learning are all adequate under the guidelines. FUHSD’s biology, chemistry and physics curricula have been redesigned to include more topics covering sustainability, such as the impact of human activity on earth systems, the analysis of geoscience data and the use of energy and mineral resources.

Chemistry teacher from Monta Vista Kavita Gupta is a passionate advocate for incorporating environmental sciences into regular high school curriculums by supporting the voices of student bodies. Gupta has already taken steps to learn and educate her students about the environment and regularly includes sustainability-related discussions inside the classroom.

“I realized that our students were excellent inside the classroom, but they had little understanding of issues they were hearing outside the classroom,” Gupta said. “Even as a chemistry teacher, I started taking small steps to learn more about environmental education so I can teach my students chemistry through the lens of environmental sustainability because I think it belongs in all courses.”

Alongside implementing environmental science curriculums, FUHSD is planning to host community events to further spread awareness on student-led climate research. For instance, a group of students and staff focused on environmental literacy is organizing an Earth Day celebration open to all of FUHSD, where they plan to have guest panels and student speakers. 

“We are hoping that we can represent students from multiple departments throughout our five high schools and showcase their good work,” Gupta said. 

Furthermore, FUHSD is not planning to stop with just the silver award. The district is looking into ways that it can further improve sustainability on its campuses. 

“Once we know where we fell short from gold, I’m sure we’ll have a bigger discussion as a district and how we can improve that,” Assistant Principal Yukari Salazar said. 

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Riki Murase, Social Media Manager
(he/him) Riki is a senior and a second-year staffer as well as the social media and photography manager for the Epic. He enjoys reading, cooking, playing video games, lifting, and wrestling.
Anushka Anand, Managing Editor
(she/her) Anushka is a senior and the Managing Editor of the Epic for the 2023-24 school year. Aside from her immense passion for journalism, she enjoys engaging in various forms of art, like playing guitar, cooking, painting, woodworking, doing henna, etc.
Charlotte Bolay, Staffer
(she/her) Charlotte is a sophomore and first year staffer for the Epic. In addition to writing and photography, she also enjoys baking, art, reading, listening to music, and being in nature.
Taek Kim, Staffer
(he/him) Taek is currently a junior and is very stoked to be a first-year staffer on the Epic for 2023-24! Aside from journalism, Taek enjoys listening to jazz, yapping about politics, and playing cello during his free time.
Yvonne Wu, Staffer
(she/her) Yvonne Wu is a junior and a first-year staffer. She enjoys playing tennis and piano, as well as listening to music, eating food and sleeping.

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