By Steven Fletcher
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Essex Regional High School green team — led by Eric Magers, a foreign language teacher — want their facility to stand as the "greenest school in America."
And that designation has nothing to do with the school's official colors.
The school has received a state "Green Difference" award that placed them in the state's top three green schools and Marcia O'Neil, Manchester Essex Regional School District superintendent, will recognize their efforts at Tuesday night's School Committee meeting.
Robin Organ — director of Greenschools, a Massachusetts non-profit organization dedicated to creating healthier and more environmentally considerate school facilities — presented the award, recognizing MERHS's efficient design, recycling, composting and waste reduction programs.
The school received the award last month after implementing its green-team initiative a year earlier. Magers, Scott Morrison, MERHS's curriculum director, and Jeff Carovillano, received the honor at the Genzyme building in Cambridge, an ecologically conscious building in its own right.
Sarah Creighton, school building committee chairwoman, said the $49 million school facility received the highest level of pre-certification under the Massachusetts high performance schools program.
The facility requires efficient lighting, air quality controls, efficient materials and conserve materials, resources and energy. The new high-school also maximized the National Grid and Keyspan utility rebates.
The school's construction, Creighton noted, includes high-efficiency lighting that dims depending on sunlight, low-flow faucets and toilets, a 30kw photovoltaic (solar) power system that provides 40,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity. Morrison mentioned that district received a new start along with the new building.
"It's not just the construction," said Paul Murphy, MERHS assistant principal. "It's the people inside."
In conjunction with the environmentally sound design, the high school created a "green team" of committed students and faculty one year ago.
The group, which comprised of 100 students and 25 faculty district wide, promoted several green initiatives within the school, ultimately reducing MERHS' waste output by 85 percent.
The team, led by Magers, Morrison and Cavollano, instituted single-stream recycling, composting and electronic waste disposal in the school, and stainless steel compost bins stand as a common sight in school halls.
The team also introduced what Magers called "terracycling" measures — designed to reuse wrappers, expo markers, and pens, among other refuse — and Nike-Grind, a national service that turns athletic shoes into athletic surfaces.
According to Magers, the waste disposal efforts saved the school $1,000 over the course of 2009-2010. Green Team efforts draw funding from, according to Scott Morrison, service learning grants and sustainable planning grants.
The district received a $1,000 service learning grant this year and looks to file in July for the $10,000 sustainable planning grant. Fundraising efforts and grants from the town's Enrichment Fund also supported the project.
Though the school building gave MERHS a head start, Morrison mentioned that other schools can use the green team practices without the facility.
"We don't want (the building) to become an excuse for other districts," said Morrison.
The green team's latest endeavor placed a 7,000-square-foot, raised bed, garden on the school property. With the garden, the team hopes to provide a percentage of produce, radishes, tomatoes, squash, beans etc., to district schools — though, Sheila Perisian, MERHS food service director, the garden won't supply everything.
The school cafeteria serves as a barometer for building wide recycling efforts.
The kitchen alone produced eight bags of trash every lunch period before the green team initiative, Magers said; by the end, it was generating only two.
The cafeteria staff began using recyclable bowls and compost-worthy plates made of sugar cane and cups made of corn starch. The materials cost a great deal more than Styrofoam flatware, but the food services staff believe they are worth the expense.
Though at this time, according to Magers, the school recycles all plates, bowls and cups. The cafeteria also includes a waste separation machine christened "Lucido-matic," after its inventor Joe Lucido, MERHS facilities manager. The machine looks like a salad bar and separates waste according to trash, recyclables and compost.
According to Morrison, other districts from within the region and beyond are showing interest in the Manchester Essex green efforts.
Magers recently took one team of MERHS students to Hamilton-Wenham High School, and another to Woburn High School as well.
Come June 26, Perisian, Morrison, Lucedo and Magers will attend the New England municipal recycling council and discuss the work the school has done over the last year. They will speak to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection among other audience members.
"In just about a year," said Morrison, "other districts recognized our work."
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3447, or at firstname.lastname@example.org