Bellingham Public Schools has made significant movement in the past year around sustainability. Progress (and kudos) came in the form of a national and state sustainability award, a local bond passage which included provisions for a 15th more fully sustainable elementary school, and the recent formation of a Sustainability Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing and updating district practices.

As we continue on this journey of sustainability, we will share our large and small success stories, highlighting the impactful wins for our planet and for the future of our students.

Passage of the 2022 Bond

Our commitment to sustainable practices in our schools was boosted earlier this year in February with the passage of our 2022 facilities bond. This bond included funding for a 15th elementary school that will be designed and built to an elevated sustainability standard.  Alongside this new school, other provisions in the bond include increasing efficiency districtwide in energy and water consumption and promoting sustainability education and stewardship.

Green Ribbon District Awardee

In April 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced that our district was among this year’s Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardees. We were first named a Washington State Green Ribbon District leader by the Department of Environment and Sustainability Education in the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI) and our nomination was then elevated to the national level. We are honored to be selected for this distinction and to hear that our district exemplifies the kind of model that OSPI and the federal government is seeking for the “green ribbon” designation. More on the award here.

EL-9 change initiated by the school board

To align big initiatives, district leaders regularly report to the school board on successes and areas of challenge related to The Bellingham Promise through Executive Limitations (EL) and Ends Monitoring Reports in relation to our Policy Governance model. EL-9 was revised at the September 2022 board meeting and now includes sustainability practices in our facilities. Updated EL-9 language here.

Progress report of the Sustainability Task Force

In spring 2022, the district formed a Sustainability Task Force to develop a plan that reflects our aspirations for integrating sustainability throughout the district. In September 2022, the task force shared its progress report with Superintendent Greg Baker that included a Sustainability Framework and a path forward.

Now called the Sustainability Advisory Committee, with three concurrent subcommittees, the goal of this group is to develop a climate action plan for Bellingham Public Schools as well as to define and refine actionable and measurable sustainability priorities in facilities and operations, teaching and learning, and habits and culture. Follow the work of this group online.

Other sustainability wins in BPS

Alongside these systemwide announcements and reports, there are many smaller accomplishments to share.

As of this fall, food services now uses only reusable utensils in schools and continues to focus on reducing the waste stream with recycling and composting habits promoted in cafeterias.

In our business services area, mail delivery between buildings has been reduced to one half what it was, saving fuel and energy costs.

The new Sunnyland Elementary School opened in August 2022 with many sustainability features, including the following: the school was built solar-ready; the electric air-to-water heat pump system is two to three times more efficient than a boiler; the HVAC system brings 100 percent of the air in from the outside, and exhausts it outside, meaning the air is not recycled; and the large windows in the building increase natural light and reduce the need for artificial lighting.

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