Sunnyside Elementary, Portland

Green 2006


Premier 2009

Current certification 4/29/2013 – 4/29/2016


Sunnyside Environmental School started as a program in 1994 and in 2004 became a full campus, serving grades K-8. All curriculum revolves around the environment and shows how societal issues relate back to sustainability.   Each year we cycle through a guiding theme from mountain to forest into the river.  At Sunnyside, we hope to address issues in both rural and urban areas and explain how equity plays a role in sustainability. Our staff is dedicated to teaching students to be the change they wish to see in their future communities.  We bring in a diverse set of speakers to morning assemblies so that our students can learn about the importance of a variety of topics, such as waste reduction.

We are serious about waste reduction. Not only do we have an extensive recycling system, but we also encourage staff and students to reuse one-sided paper and have a yearly Waste-Free Challenge to encourage critical thinking about waste disposal. Our school participates in the city composting program, and also feeds food scraps to chickens on site. We are lucky enough to have cooking classes to teach students how to use what they grow. We feel privileged to run these programs, and thank our PTSA for funding part time positions for a sustainability coordinator, garden coordinator, and farm-to-school coordinator.

We know that our sustainability work is most impactful if we can involve people outside of our school. That’s why we focus on working with the community and addressing inequalities in Portland. Our students have raked leaves in the community, cleaned garbage from a nearby alleyway, and done an anti-coal export letter writing campaign.

Other projects we work on:

  • An annual student run Christmas tree recycling fundraiser, open to the community.
  • We have a partnership with another school in our district: Jason Lee. We presented to Jason Lee on energy conservation techniques and recycling systems, and hope to present to more schools in the future.
  • We were one of many schools in our district to convert to natural gas boilers, reducing our oil usage.
  • Students help wash reusable cutlery and trays, we no longer use Styrofoam!
  • We reuse milk cartons for garden activities
  • Worm bin compost for the garden
  • Walk & Bike to School events promoting safe alternative modes of transportation
  • Rain water collection for summer garden watering

We are so thankful to have so much support to make all of these projects happen! We are constantly working to improve our footprint, and hope we can continue working with other schools and communities to spread our mission; fostering responsibility, excitement for learning and respect for all living things.