Middletown Area School is Green Through and Through

You can’t describe the Lucy School, a preschool-through-8th grade private school midway between Middletown and Myersville, without talking about the boots. To me, the boots symbolize the approach this school takes to its educational mission, which

founding director Victoria Brown began in 2002 to embody the values of arts and the environment in secondary education. Don’t get the wrong idea—they follow the required Maryland State Department of Education requirements and mirror many Frederick County Public Schools logistical practices (closings, holidays etc.).

Yet putting emphasis on the arts and on outdoor exploration (the reason every child has boots at the school, for woods play and for regular lessons in the “waterfall”—on a pond that teems with life the students study for science and other lessons), sustainability and art is an approach that appears to pay dividends when you watch the curious, engaged students. (There are currently 120 students at the school, with preschool, elementary and middle school occupying a farmhouse, former milking parlor, a barn and undoubtedly one of the most sustainable secondary school buildings in the US.) “How can you hope that children will grow up to care about the environment, if they have not had the opportunity to play, explore and learn in nature?” says Brown.

  • Cork floors, bamboo cabinets with wheat board shelves (all sustainable building materials)
  • Recycled blue jean/newspaper insulation in the walls
  • Rainwater used to supply plumbing
  • Reuse of beams and barn wood in a renovated barn
  • Green roof
  • School powered by solar panels, geothermal energy
  • Environmental education (including a biodiversity day)
  • Lessons from local farmers on local food and growing blueberries, figs, apples, pears and paw paws as well as a student nurtured school garden
  • Composting
  • Tea tree oil for cleaning instead of harsh chemicals
  • Natural lighting enhanced by solar magnification

Along with being a prestigious US Department of Education Green Ribbon School, Lucy School built one of the few LEED Platinum secondary schools in the country. LEED is a national certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage energy and resource-efficient buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Platinum is the highest level, earning 90 points for various construction and building practices. See Lucy School’s scores here.

Lucy School’s first preschool students are just beginning to emerge from college now, and while not everyone opts for the arts or environmental science or sustainability, the staff feels assured that their “sustainable” education and surroundings will increase their resiliency. “In situations of stress, these kids know how to turn to arts and nature” for strength, says Amy Bolstridge, a teacher at the school.

To read more about Lucy School, click here.

 

 

The Comeback of Water Fountains (and the going-away of plastic water bottles)

The marketing campaigns by bottled water companies have won the hearts and minds of Americans during the past few decades.

So imagine that now, as we wean ourselves off the single-use bottle, xx of which are thrown away each hour, we now have to create publicity campaigns to convince people to use public water again.

It’s happening–I heard about it most recently at the 2019 Green Sports Summit when a soldier turned corporate marketing executive turned public affairs expert talked about the campaign in Philadelphia going on right now. After Philadelphia Water Department surveys found that 40% of the population was drinking bottled water instead of city tap water, they began a campaign, Drink Philly Tap. The campaign began last spring and is aimed at getting pledges from 15,000 city residents to migrate to tap water from bottled water. They have installed a “water bar” at City Hall, chosen 60 community leaders as “ambassadors” for city water, and are in the midst of a large publicity campaign.

Their goal is to decrease usage of water bottles.Their research showed that the messaging was not around reducing waste; the messaging also needed to be around trust of their own water system.

Remember, Philadelphia is a historic and industrial city, in the mode of Flint, MI,  where residents had good reason to distrust their water system. While Philadelphians did not have a similar calamity (in Flint, it is estimated 100,000 residents were affected), the research of Perfecto Sanchez’s Journey One (a human resources social engagement impact company) ( found that residents opted for bottled water because they had a vague feeling that it was cleaner than city water. (Photo, left; the author heard Perfecto speak at the Green Sports Summit in Philadephia).

So their campaign is all around the trustworthiness of city water.

Here in Frederick County’s schools, the research has been done as a result of Maryland HB270 passed in 2017, which required testing of all school water systems. Facilities Director Laura Olsen says that stands true for all 931 of the water fountains in the county’s schools. The number of these is set by building and health codes in place at the time of construction; typically, she says,  it is at least one in every major corridor and also large gathering areas such as gym and cafeteria.

FCPS is not waging a war on single-use water bottles, though the number of water fountains has increased in the past few years giving students more access to non-bottled water. Its a school-by-school policy as to use of water bottles, and some schools, like Oakdale High School, which placed bottle filling water fountains like this one in their hallways, have gone to great lengths to make water-bottle fillers available to their students and staff.

You know, it really hasn’t been that long in the history of mankind that the plastic water bottle became ubiquitous–just three decades, in reality. Perrier first began marketing bottled water in 1977. Let’s hope the campaign to turn away from single-service plastic water bottles goes faster.

The Anthropology of Roadside Trash

green frederick trash

Linda shares her trash capture from Memorial Day weekend!

For a year now I have been routinely cleaning up litter along a two -mile stretch of Harmony Road, sometimes with the help of family and friends. We adopted it as part of Green Frederick’s mission to serve the community.

Its a bucolic setting, winding along the stream valley of the mighty but Little Catoctin Creek which meanders through the Myersville area. Even with the work that I’m doing, as I bend over time and time again I have time to reflect about what I find along the way.

Here are some observations:
1) Roadside Character Analysis. Every roadside takes on the personality of the people that use it. While that may seem a statement of the obvious, it becomes really granular when you’re picking up the detritus that “normal” people feel compelled to throw out their windows. I’ve done litter cleanups for years with Scout troops and volunteer groups, and the things we find have a different theme every time.

2) The Lunch Bunch. The most intriguing thing about Harmony Road between MD 17 and US 40 is the “lunchroom” trash. I’ve never seen so many zip-lock bags in a litter pickup project before! It’s as if a school bus full of children emptied their lunch boxes out the window every day—but it goes on year-round (even when school is out!)

This is noticeable because, since I regularly clean the same stretch of the road several times a year, the same trash returns. Every time, somewhere along the road I find plastic ziplock baggies with empty wraps from crackers, crusts of sandwiches, balled up napkins; trays from lunchables. I also find small one-serve milk bottles, water bottles, and juices; I find banana peels and apple cores (which I leave to decay). Whoever is eating and discarding these lunches packs very similar meals to what I grew up learning was a traditional lunch-sandwich, fruit and Cookie/cracker treat with a drink.

3) Throw Your Vices Out the Window. Like everywhere, people have their share of vices in the vicinity of Harmony Road. The bag I carry for recyclables is inevitably filled and weighting me down with Coors lite, Miller and Budweiser bottles (as well as a variety of smashed can beers) far before my trash bag is; and the number of empty Pall Mall, Native Spirit and Marlboro cigarette packs I’ve picked up has been in the dozens.

4) Car Parts Galore. The highway produces a lot of plastic and metal trash. Interstate 70 crosses over my section of Harmony Road (see the video for a good look), and along the  quarter mile on either side of it I usually find discarded pieces of rug, floor mats, sections of black plastic that I assume are pieces of bumpers (that I always hope are not the result of accidents above) as well as scraps of aluminum and some type of faux metal that is actually plastic treated to appear metallic.

5) Odd Stuff. Though I don’t find a lot of them, three items of significance I found are striking. I’ve separately found two drivers licenses; and an envelope with a paycheck (all of which I returned to the owners).

I don’t have a way at my home to weigh the trash and recyclables, so it is difficult to estimate what I’ve collected; the Frederick County Highway Department, which runs the program, is unfortunately not very responsive when I write to them to pick up bags I’ve left along the roadside, so for most of the year I’ve simply brought them home and deposited them in my own trash and recycling bin. I would guesstimate I’ve brought home 10 bags of trash and 15 bags of recyclables over the year.

Its an interesting psychological experience. In other circumstances — probably because I’d had my Girl Scout troop with me–people would stop to thank us for cleaning the road. I haven’t yet had that in the past year; more normally, people look at me as if I’m nuts or slightly touched.

However, it IS making an impact. In past litter pickups we routinely speculate that seeing litter pickup encourages people to litter more because they assume someone is taking care of it for them. However, except for my lunch-eating friends and the people who want to dump signs of their vices on the side of the road, I have seen less trash since I am regularly monitoring my stretch of Harmony Road, and thats an encouraging thing–both for the environment and for my opinion of human nature!

Resources: Frederick County Adopt-A-Road program

State of Maryland Adopt-A-Road program 

Plogging (picking up trash while jogging)

 

School Composting and Waste Sorting Data

Joe Richardson of Bar-T Mountainside Ranch (a directory member!) and member of the @Frederick Compost Workgroup recently presented data from a number of waste sorts and composting efforts he coordinated at schools in Frederick County. He presented the data to the Frederick County Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) as well as Frederick County Public Schools representatives. Students, teachers and parents from Sugarloaf/Urbana Elementary and Brunswick High School who have worked on the project also attended and gave their perspective.

The presentation is here for your enjoyment and information; click on the graphic below!

 Presentation for SWAC – FINAL

Have You Read the Green New Deal?

What do you think would happen if the Green New Deal resolution was passed by the House, the Senate and then signed by the president?

Nothing would happen.

The Green New Deal resolution does not mandate any action. It is aspirational. It is a listing of aspects of our society that the authors feel need change. I believe it is intended to be a guide to further legislation. In that respect it is similar to the New Deal under President Roosevelt in the 1930s. Also, it should be considered with an emphasis on its “New Deal” aspect because it is not just an environmental resolution. Just like the fixing of the economy in the ’30s was to be accomplished by building bridges, roads, etc. this new New Deal aims at repairing aspects of our economy that are having a deleterious effect on our environment.

Before I read the Resolution I had heard that it contained provisions requiring the end of the use of fossil fuels for electric generation by 2030. I thought that was ridiculous. In actuality, there is no such thing in the Resolution. There is also no requirement that we all become vegans to prevent cow flatulence, which one “commentator” asserted.
There are a lot of commentators making similar assertions about and refutations of scary things that are just not in the document.

Personally, I do not agree with the entire Resolution but it is so much more interesting to talk about it after reading it. Read it yourself. Find it here If you skip most of the first page it is only about 2000 words and will take about 5 minutes.

 
Ellis Burruss is a longtime Frederick County advocate for environmental causes and common sense change. He lives in Brunswick.

Note from Green Frederick:
Here is another assessment of the Green New Deal from the Sierra Club of Maryland.