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DEPARTMENTS   »   District Operational Services   »   Green Schools Initiative


The purpose of the Green Schools Initiative is to reduce the consumption of natural resources, and embed environmental responsibility in the culture of OPS. To date, 100% of the schools/programs and administrative offices participate. Students collect recycling, serve as energy managers, pick up litter, plant trees, and participate in related community events.  After six years, OPS has seen a positive culture change, has dramatically reduced its environmental impact, and has accumulated approximately $7.3 million in cumulative cost reduction and avoidance and avoided the greenhouse gas emissions 74,000 Mt of CO2 equivalent to the emissions produced by burning 395 railcars of coal.

Dr. Turnquist on GSI

"The Green Schools Initiative is motivated by a dedication to sound fiscal and environmental stewardship. It represents a commitment to responsible management of material resources and to the health of the school district as well as the larger community. All members of the OPS family are urged to join together in this initiative out of respect for the environment and a dedication to efficiency in all operational practices."

Dr. Antoinette E. Turnquist
Chief Operations Officer
Posted with permission from Junk King.


One of the greatest ways to reduce our carbon footprints on an individual or household basis, and one of the easiest, is to recycle. Indeed, Americans create 254 million tons of waste every year, according to the EPA, and if all the recyclable materials in that waste stream were properly disposed of, about $7 billion worth of resources wouldn’t wind up in landfills. Most people do put out their recycling for their municipal services to cart away -- but what more can you do to improve the recycling process? Without knowing it, many people recycle improperly. Learning how to avoid mistakes can ensure that more waste is properly recycled for a better and cleaner planet.

Check out this list of common recycling mistakes to make sure that you haven’t been unwittingly making them:

  1. To recycle, or not to recycle bottle caps? For some reason, most people think that the plastic caps on bottles are not recyclable, but that is not the case. At least anymore. According to Do Something, Americans throw out 25 million plastic bottles every hour, but the caps aren’t often with them. Make sure to keep the cap and the bottle together for maximum recycling results.
  2. One of the most common recycling mistakes people make is throwing dirty cardboard and paper into the recycling bin -- out of the 69 million tons of paper thrown out every year, it only takes small amounts of dirty or greasy paper to ruin large batches of recyclables.
  3. The glossy paper of magazines and coupons can in fact be recycled. Magazine Publishers of America notes that just 20% of magazines are recycled, so don’t forget to put them out for curbside pickup.
  4. Every year, Americans throw out 100 billion plastic grocery bags. Unfortunately, local recycling plants don’t tend to accept them, but many grocery stores offer receptacles in which you can return their plastic shopping bags. Try to reuse them as much as possible, and bring reusable bags to the store.
  5. Over 87% of Americans have access to a curbside or drop-off paper recycling program -- there is no reason not to recycle!
  6. People also often forget to do their recycling homework. Depending on where you live and what recycling program you have access to, you may be able to recycle things you didn’t know you could. Do your homework before you recycle. For example, foam packaging. Believe it or not, your area’s pack-and-ship store most likely accepts foam peanuts for reuse.
  7. Don’t include shredded paper in your recycling. Although paper is one of the most recyclable items out there (it has a recycling rate of 60% in the U.S.) the shredded stuff is very difficult to get facilities to accept, since it isn’t compatible with plant machinery.
  8. Frozen Food Boxes are another thing that can’t get recycled -- those paperboard boxes are designed for the freezer, so they have a coat of plastic polymer sprayed on them. That prevents the box from properly breaking down in the recycling process.


Together, we can change the world and our habits, and make recycling a natural and necessary part of our lives!

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In March 2015, OPS confirmed new goals as part of its Green Schools Initiative, a program designed to guide the reduction of consumption of natural resources at OPS. These goals set targets for resource reduction and track the progress in each goal, which can be viewed on the Dashboard.


The original goals were either out of date or no longer relevant. Paper and engagement will no longer be tracked.  There is not enough data available to give an accurate representation of paper usage in the District. In addition, the paper ordering is often uneven, with large orders one semester and small ones the next, making it difficult to discern patterns and areas of opportunity for reduction which is a primary reason for tracking a metric. The District has also reached the goal for engagement with all schools having implemented Green Teams.

The table below shows previous goals and new goals. The new goal metrics were chosen with consideration for OPS’ growth and the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Award program metrics. The Green Ribbon Award recognizes schools that reduce their environmental impact, improve the health and wellness of schools and occupants, and provide environmental education. OPS won the 2014 District Green Ribbon Sustainability award and four individual schools have earned Green Ribbon awards over the last three years. Showing progress towards these goals illustrates the district’s commitment to resource reduction and improving the health and wellness of the District.

The table below describes the previous goal, the new (or updated goal), and the savings experienced to date. The Emissions goal is new whereas the paper usage and engagement goals are being eliminated. The time frame for each goal is 2019.

OPS Green Schools Initiative Goals and Savings


Previous Goal

Savings to date


New Goal

Energy Star

District wide Energy Star rating of 70

$3.9 million in energy costs

District wide Energy Star rating of 62.5

District wide Energy Star rating of 70



36,500 MtCO2 * emissions prevented

1.58 MtCO2 per occupant per year in emissions

1.36 MtCO2 per occupant per year in emissions

Water Consumption

District average of 11.1 million gallons per month


2,469 gallons per occupant per year

2,400 gallons per occupant per year


34,000 cubic yards of recycling

$47,000 in avoided costs

24% of District waste diverted to recycling

30% of District waste diverted to recycling

Waste Reduction

110,000 cubic yards of waste per year

(see above)

(see above)

(see above)

Paper Usage

7,300 cases purchased per year


8,150 cases purchased per year


Engagement-Green Teams

100% of schools with Green Teams


100% of schools with Green Teams


* MtCO2 stands for metric tons of carbon dioxide, a common metric to measure greenhouse gas emissions.

Potential Impact

If OPS were to meet the goals above, it would have the following impact each year:

  • The emissions reduction equivalent of removing 1,900 passenger cars from the road
  • Saving 1.4 million gallons of water
  • Diverting 8,000 cubic yards of waste to recycling