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Greenbrier students strive for sustainability

By Lisa Burnett

This article was originally published May 23, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. Updated May 22, 2013 at 10:29 a.m.

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Kristen Miller, a ninth-grader at Greenbrier Junior High School, helped spearhead the school’s project in the Green School Challenge. Greenbrier Junior High students received the gold award from the U.S. Green Building Council-Arkansas Chapter. To earn the award, the students organized reminders to recycle, purchased rain barrels and promoted policies for sustainable communities.

The most famous of Jim Henson’s Muppets — Kermit the Frog — once lamented in a popular song, “It’s not easy being green.” Don’t tell that to Rebekah Bilderback’s student council members at Greenbrier Junior High School. They are doing big things, in a green way.

Greenbrier Junior High School received gold recognition in the Arkansas Green Schools Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council-Arkansas Chapter.

Bilderback, who is the student council sponsor, led a group of students in making this initiative a reality.

Greenbrier Junior High School received a plaque and $500 for earning gold status for the challenge. Bilderback said the money will be used to expand what the students have already done to promote a green school.

Kristin Miller, a ninth-grader at Greenbrier Junior High School, is the event planner for the school’s student council.

“Our EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) teacher gets emails about competitions we can enter,” Miller said. “She asked if we wanted to do the [Arkansas Green Schools Challenge].”

The Green Schools Challenge started out as an EAST project, but Misty Burgess, EAST facilitator for Greenbrier Junior High, went on maternity leave in the middle of the project, so Bilderback took it over.

Miller said she and her fellow students wanted to teach others how to make resources last.

“We put up signs in our school about turning off the water, and we also were able to get some rain barrels,” Miller said.

Rain barrels collect rainwater from gutters around the school and provide the school with a natural water source to use to water plants around campus.

“We’ve been encouraging kids to recycle,” Bilderback said. “The teachers also had a paper shortage earlier this year.”

Bilderback said that when she would make copies of worksheets or handouts for her students, she noticed all of the paper that was being wasted in the school.

Bilderback said she encouraged other teachers to use paper with material printed on the back of it.

Another way Bilderback and her students promoted recycling in their school was to make notepads for teachers from “used” paper.

Miller said she enjoyed working with her fellow students to make this project a reality. She said the challenge will be for students who follow in her footsteps to make their school a better place. Miller said she encourages the students who take over the project when she moves to high school to continue with the progress she and her student council have made.

“We wanted to get teachers who come in on weekends to use lamps instead of turning on the big lights,” Miller said.

Bilderback said this is something she tries to do on a daily basis when she teaches.

“I try to use natural light,” Bilderback said. “We can see better.”

Bilderback said some of her students deal with migraines, and using natural light reduces the risk of getting migraines.

When things didn’t go the way the Greenbrier students planned, Bilderback said they always found a way to work things out.

“This project gave the kids an opportunity to learn how to problem solve,” Bilderback said.

Miller said she encourages other students to work through hardships they might run into when they promote a “green” school.

“Even if it doesn’t go the way you planned, don’t give up,” Miller said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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