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Going for green: ASU receives award for sustainability efforts

ASU was one of 11 recipients that received a sustainability award from the Center for Green Schools and the Green Schools National Network

ASU students pose for a group photo while learning new gardening initiatives in the garden at ASU's Polytechnic campus. The garden was highlighted in the Best of Green Schools award.

ASU students pose for a group photo while learning new gardening initiatives in the garden at ASU's Polytechnic campus. The garden was highlighted in the Best of Green Schools award.

ASU once again proved its growth in sustainability after accepting the 2017 Best of Green Schools award on March 22.

The award from the Center for Green Schools and Green Schools National Network recognized 11 individuals, institutions, project and events that represented the best environmental efforts across the country. 

ASU received the award in the category of higher education, which showcased several of the University’s programs, both on the Polytechnic and Tempe campuses. Two of their sustainability education programs for teachers — the Sustainability Science Education program and Sustainability Teachers’ Academy — were recognized in the award.

Susan Norton, the program manager for University sustainability practices, said in an emailed statement that this award highlights how important it is to plant the seed of sustainability education in the younger generations. 

“This award helps to continue to show the value of educating the younger generations with regards to sustainability and shows the support from outside organizations, which is key to continued success,” she said. “With a collaborative effort we can reach so many more students and in turn see meaningful behavior change.”

Molly Cashion, the program manager for the Wells Fargo Regional Sustainability Teachers' Academy, said her program has equipped K-12 teachers with a holistic approach to sustainability science.

The program aims to educate K-12 teachers about sustainability concepts they can incorporate in schools and allows them to participate in workshops where they gain these skills. Cashion said the program has the ability to give a stipend to a school after they have implemented a new program, which motivates many teachers. 

“We have a transdisciplinary approach to sustainability education, meaning that teachers from all subject areas are able to implement sustainability concepts and projects into their existing curriculum,” she said.

Cashion said teachers in her program have varying degrees of sustainability in their schools, but they have been able to develop new ideas because of the Sustainability Teachers' Academy program.

“In one of our workshops, we had teachers from Washington State who said they had a very robust recycling program and composting program at their school, and at the same workshop we also had teachers from an area of West Virginia who didn’t have any recycling,” she said. “I fully believe in what we’re doing, and I know the teachers have really appreciated it.”

Cashion said the recognition of her program in the Best of Green Schools award shows the strength and potential to expand sustainability.

“The award is great, but I think that we’ve always had in mind to just continue building the program and trying to reach more teachers,” she said. “It’s really nice for us to be able to show this award as a way of boosting our credibility in the sustainable school arena.”

For students studying sustainability like freshman Elyse Kats, this award was seen as another stride from ASU as it leads in sustainability.

Kats, who is the senator-elect of the school of sustainability and is involved in several clubs including Barrett Sustainability Club, Campus Student Sustainability Initiatives and Sustainabilibuddies, said she has learned a new definition of sustainability from her major.

“In classes, we get really basic definitions of sustainability like things that equally help the environment, society and economy,” she said. “I think it’s more of just trying to leave the world in a better way than we found it.”

Kats said this award validates why she decided to come to ASU in the first place.

“As an out-of-state student, I literally chose ASU only for sustainability,” she said. “It’s reaffirming to get awards like that because I know I’m in the right place, and I think that will attract future students as well as make ASU’s reach even greater.”

Chantal Aguirre, a freshman who also came to ASU to benefit from the sustainability school, said these initiatives are vital to the success and development of the University as a whole.

“If we are supposedly the new American university and are so innovative, we obviously have to take into account sustainability issues,” she said. “It’s very awesome that we got recognized for it, but it’s also not a shock because ASU is doing so much.”

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