Green initiatives at South keep growing

Tamsin Stringer, Guest Writer

Bloomington High School South would appear to be a normal, average high school to outsiders. But when visitors walk through the doors, they will discover it is one of the more green high schools in the Midwest.

Most of South’s energy including transportation, food, heating and cooling, and light are powered by three primary sources: coal, natural gas, and petroleum. However, coal is the primary source for electricity.

Our heating and cooling system is operated on natural gas, while petroleum is used for our transportation services, like school buses. Coal and petroleum production are unsustainable, and requires tremendous amounts of manpower. It also requires a destructive extraction of the natural resource.

However, students at South are trying to change this, and they have been exploring new sustainable ways of obtaining energy.

South has many advanced green initiatives. Through our AP environmental class and the environmental club SSI or “South Sustainability Initiative” students have been able to organize and write grants for solar panels on our roof, Project Pavegen in our hallway, project green bathrooms for our bathrooms, and a lights out campaign for our classes.

Pavegen is form of sustainable energy, invented by British engineer Laurence Cook, the, that converts people’s footsteps into electrical power. It harnesses the kinetic energy of people’s movement. Our AP class wrote a grant to get the technology in place, and when we finally received it our environmental club educated elementary school kids on the importance of sustainable energy. South was the first school campus in the country to get this kind of technology.

“When you step onto the tiles and release your foot, the kinetic movement of the tile compressing and releasing powers a generator within the tile. That electricity is transferred through a wire that runs through the ceiling to our boards which will light up simply from your power,” said Amanda Figolah, South’s environmental science teacher.

Junior Anna Hanell, who was at the opening of this technology described their first steps on the tiles as “ stepping my way into a world with sustainable energy” with a huge smile on her face.

This technology may not produce a huge amount of power, but creates an interactive approach to learning about many forms of sustainable energy.

South has many other student run initiatives.

The AP environmental class planted a rain garden in the front our school, after learning about the effects of permaculture. Late last spring, Figolah and her AP class created the garden to reduce runoff and educate students on the importance of pollination, and native species. Grace Oeding, one of the students involved, said,  “I am so happy I was able to be on the ground floor of this project; it has taught me so much about our environment!” This garden has been taken care of by maintenance and student volunteers, and will still be growing when new students arrive in the fall.

We created a lights out campaign that educates teachers and students on the importance of conserving electricity. This involves taping light switches down and trying to turn off the lights in classrooms off as much as possible. This method drastically decreased the amount of energy South uses up in a day.

Project Green Bathrooms is another sustainable initiative. Some of our classmates applied for a grant to modernize our bathrooms by using green energy. The bathroom now has dual flush toilets, air hand dryers, and paper towels made from recycled paper. Sung Ah Kim, a student running the initiative, said, “it’s a great advancement in our school conserving energy.”

South is also one of the few schools in Indiana to have solar panels on the roof, which was another student run project.