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ASU earns Best of Green Schools honor

University's efforts in sustainability education with middle and high school students among programs highlighted by award


Vegetables harvested from the ASU Poly Garden

The ASU Poly Garden leases three of its 48 campus-community garden plots to ASU Preparatory Academy’s sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms and high school environmental science students each semester. To date, the students have donated more than 135 pounds of produce — such as these items harvested there this spring — to a local food bank. Photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

March 22, 2017

Planting the sustainability seed early is key for lifelong awareness, and Arizona State University’s efforts to do that with community education were recognized Wednesday with a 2017 Best of Green Schools award from the Center for Green Schools at the U.S Green Building Council, in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network.

The annual Best of Green Schools awards recognize 11 individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country. ASU was honored in the higher-education category.

“Arizona State University continues to raise the bar in sustainability education and leadership,” said Anisa Heming, director of the Center for Green Schools. “We believe that every student across the country should have the opportunity to learn in and from a green school environment, and ASU is making that happen in its community every day.”

The award highlighted ASU’s variety of programs for middle and high school students, such as the Poly Garden, which leases three of its 48 campus-community garden plots to ASU Preparatory Academy’s sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms and high school environmental science students each semester. To date, the students have logged approximately 2,400 hours in the garden and donated more than 135 pounds of produce to a local food bank.

“When students engage with the entire process of gardening from soil preparation to planting seeds to harvest, it gives them a unique sense of accomplishment and a true understanding of where food really comes from,” said Susan Norton, program manager for University Sustainability Practices and Poly Garden manager. “It generates firsthand respect for our entire food system.

Norton said that students need to engage with nature “to be able to make the connections as to why resource conservation is so important for a healthy and secure lifestyle.”

Also spotlighted were the university’s two sustainability education programs targeted toward K-12 teachers, the Sustainability Science Education program and Sustainability Teachers' Academy.

“While the urgency of environmental issues requires ASU to continue leading with improvements to its own operations and practices, it is the younger generations who are going to innovate and transform society’s depleting practices into regenerative opportunities,” said Mick Dalrymple, director of University Sustainability Practices at ASU. “It is an honor to support programs such as these that encourage the creativity and connection with nature that will help children develop tomorrow’s solutions.”

The award honorees were announced at the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Atlanta.

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