Green School Spotlight: Oak Creek Elementary

oakcreekgarden2Oak Creek Elementary school is proud to be a Premier Green School and a sustainability leader in the Lake Oswego School District. They have been certified as an Oregon Green School since 2008 and they obtained Premier status in 2012! They take pride at Oak Creek for involving all of our students and staff in the 3 R’s of sustainability-Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. They have developed systems that start in the classrooms with students being in charge of their own recycling.  Each classroom has a sustainability student job in charge of energy reduction (turning off the lights and computers), water conservation (ensuring the faucets are not dripping), and paper and plastic recycling.  These same themes are used at building-level Green Team meetings where staff and parents plan for continued training and new green projects.

Since 2008, Oak Creek has reduced its lunch waste by almost 50% by changing to reusable trays, reducing pre-packaged fruits/vegetables, putting condiments at a pump station, and having an open salad bar?. Since 2012, they reduced trash even further by instituting composting at lunch. as the result: over 200 lbs a week of compost are generated for processing. The reusable trays and composting were instigated by a group of 5th and 6th grade students who won the Disney Planet Challenge or their actions. From 2012 to 2015, they reduced garbage by 6% per person in the building!

They have renovated an outdoor space into a native plant garden with a plant identification booklet that the 3rd and 4th grade students and teachers will be able to use for gardening and studying the Oregon Trail.  Worm compost material created on-site was used to nourish the plants during development of the garden.. To create a low-maintenance landscape, a weed barrier of cardboard was incorporated before adding mulch. They continue to maintain and expand the garden with community work parties.

In 2014, Oak Creek had their first greater than 95% compostable or recyclable events and were pleased to announce generating less than 5% trash generated at these events. They continue to plan and brainstorm ways to reuse, reduce, and conserve. They are interested in reducing waste generated in all areas and they work together as a team of staff, parent volunteers, and students to set and accomplish our goals.

While the school has added 150 more students, they still have maintained sustainability goals and have added new ones. They maintain a weekly electronic newsletter, started an online directory for staff and families, and re-use one-sided paper whenever possible. They compost and recycle all materials that are available to be collected by their waste provider. As well, volunteers collect and/or recycle clothing, shoes, batteries, plastic clamshells, ink cartridges, cell phones, and/or 5-cent containers.

Before 2012, they were a walking school. With the addition of new students from closing schools, they are interested in reducing their carbon footprint, so they have set goals to reduce the cars that travel through the neighborhoods during drop off and pick up times. They participated in the May Walk Bike Challenge for the entire month and had over 43% of students walking or biking to school and another 29% taking the bus. On International Walk to School Day in October, they had over 80% of students walking or biking to school!

Oak Creek is excited to be one of the leaders of sustainability in their school district and understand that there is more work to be accomplished in their school and have plans to strengthen their current sustainable practices and be an innovator of new goals to reduce, reuse, and recycle in the community.