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by Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, California

Environmental Charter High School ( in Lawndale, California, provides a hands-on, rigorous college prep curriculum that extends learning into the local environment so all students graduate with the knowledge, values, and skills to become lifelong learners and quality stewards of their community—a community where magic happens.

ECHS and Green Ambassadors belong to the Green Charter School Network ( Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the GCSN supports “the establishment, enhancement and advancement of charter schools with environment-focused educational programs and practices”. The GCSN network has four components of design essentials of being a green charter school:

  1. Standards-based Integrated Environmental Learning
  2. Green Practices and Green School Facilities
  3. Live the Land Ethic (Stewardship)
  4. Partnerships and Networks- to Grow Connect and Sustain Green Schools

ECHS strives to share that magic of all the components of the Green Charter School Network, because as much as schools want to be green, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Hence, ECHS shares in this forum its own practices for more environmental school infrastructure, operation, and community


  • created the Green Ambassador program ( to fulfill all GCSN design essentials, but particularly an integrated environmental experience
    • students learn green solutions energy, food, soil, water using The Urban Homestead as their handbook
    • students equip themselves with the skills to share these solutions connecting community members, parents, and peers to the solutions through an event and teach elementary students how to incporporate these solutions into their schools and lives
  • incorporates the 4-week program where each grade level focuses on an interdisciplinary project based learning
  • has a senior thesis where the 12th grade students chose a theme and integrate their four years of experience into a final project

  • buys office supplies and cleaning products through Staples Eco Easy (, which makes more environmental shopping simple.
  • in cooperation with Bring Your Own ( and Marcus Eriksen of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (, encourages people to bring their own re-usable utensils—including stainless steel water bottles with the school logo from EcoUsable (—discourages plastics and Styrofoam, and when needed, buys compostable dishware from Go Earth ( and Cater Green (
  • promotes rechargeable batteries, though students also create boxes to collect batteries for Radio Shack’s recycling program (
  • collects additional e-waste of all kinds with ASL Recycling (
  • supports ReDiscover (, a nonprofit that redirects discarded company materials, like skateboard wheels, to children for art projects. With the help of Build Vision LA, ECHS will build a LEED-certified shed on campus for ReDiscover to supply neighboring elementary schools.
  • turns off electronic devices and lights when not in use and will commission from Lutron Lighting ( a system to measure incoming sunlight and adjust indoor lighting accordingly.
  • is working with Green Torch ( to install photoluminescent exit signs and other efficient lighting, like LEDs.
  • supplies bus passes, bike racks, and safe storage for skateboards.
  • teaches kids how to make biodiesel, which several teachers use for their cars.
  • collaborates with businesses such as Laloma Development ( in designing its school grounds. Together with Laloma and drawing upon the works of Andy Goldsworthy, ECHS students will use recycled, broken concrete and the ancient art of stonework to create a terraced landscape
  • uses drip irrigation by Rain Bird ( throughout campus.
  • purifies drinking water through reverse osmosis with the help of Pure Water Science (
  • catches and re-uses rainwater using Ace Hardware rainbarrels (
  • removed asphalt and generally tries to make campus act like a sponge with the help of rainwater-harvesting expert Bruce Lancaster (

  • sends students on field trips:
    • In 9th grade, they camp 3 days and nights on Catalina Island with the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (
    • In 10th grade, they climb in Joshua Tree National Park with Champions, and in 11th grade, they return for a backpacking trip.
    • Seniors take an eco-tour of Los Angeles to learn how to use public transportation and other facts.
    • annually sends students in grades 10-12 to the Bly Sky Meadows site of the LA County Outdoor Science School program (
  • provides its free and reduced-price lunches via Brown Bag Naturals (, which brings wholesome, organic foods to students.
  • chose Yo Naturals ( vending for its natural and organic snacks and drinks and because it gives 15% of profits to ECHS, which funds the library.
  • planted an orchard on campus with the help of the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation ( and the Fruit Tree Tour component of Common Vision (
  • assisted Santa Monica Bay Keeper ( in restoring native plants at UCLA by having a native nursery on campus
  • maintains raised-bed demonstration gardens and, with the help of Viola Gardens, a 90-foot stretch that represents all the biomes of California, from coastal sage scrub to Catalina Island.
  • re-used an old school site and made cob benches from sand, clay, straw, and water.

  • hosts community solar energy workshops with Grid Alternatives ( and Watts Up America (, who focus on providing solar panels and job training in low-income areas.
  • creates a green career fair with the National Hispanic Environmental Council ( where students learn the importance of choosing an environmental career
  • sells re-usable and recyclable bags like ChicoBags (, which can be silkscreened with logos, or the Love This Planet bag (
  • uses a State Farm Service Learning Grant ( and support from Rotary Clubs.
  • teamed up with 41 Pounds ( to earn about $14 every time someone signs up to stop
    getting junk mail.
  • with assistance from Lucky Earth (, offers waterless car washes.
  • seeks synergy with the community and non-profit organizations whenever possible.
  • As Kermit says, “It is not easy being green,” but Environmental Charter High School knows how to implement the four GCSN components of the Green School Design. Though it takes dedication and resourcefulness and a network of people, projects, and partnerships to make it happen. ECHS through its design is creating lifelong learners and quality stewards of their community—a community where GREEN might not be easy, but it certainly is a journey.

    November 19th, 2008

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