Last Fall, Communities In Schools of the Midlands partnered with Dominion Energy by challenging students in grades 4 K – 12th to limit their use of plastics at school and at home. Students learned about the harmful effects of plastic use and how to recycle plastics through the Communities In Schools Recycling Challenge.
At Pine Ridge Middle School students collected 200 lbs. of bottle caps and plastic lids. The recycled bottle caps were used to create a mural inspired by ocean animals showing the harmful effects of the plastics. The recycling challenge taught students friendly competition and the long term effects of large consumptions of plastic plaguing our environment.
Communities In Schools Site Coordinator Susan Key has continued the Dominion Energy environmental awareness initiative at Pine Ridge by using plastics in a new gardening project. The overall goal of the project is to create a community garden where students use recycled plastic materials collected from the sustainability projects to compost. The project is scheduled to run for one year and includes composting, gardening, and harvesting. The gardening project introduces ways to eliminate waste and repurpose recycled materials through environmental sustainability skills. Each grade level has its own compost bin and right before winter break students started collecting compostable food waste.
The most exciting part of starting this garden project is the new volunteer partnership with the Sierra Club Student Organization at UofSC. The volunteers are currently working on building raised beds for each grade level and a greenhouse on the school grounds. Once it’s completed, Sierra Club volunteers will dedicate hours each week to help students maintain the garden. The outcome of the gardening project will not only teach students about the plant ecosystem but also show the importance of sustainable growing practices, benefits of local farming, and the impact they are making on the environment through the use of plastics. Our students hope to grow some fruits and vegetables and are excited about continuing sustainability programs through community partnership with Dominion Energy and local civic organizations.
Ms. Key plans to reach out to the UofSC student council members to begin open discussions about the importance of improving school culture and climate by doing hands-on learning through whole school activities and food sustainability. In the upcoming year, Communities In Schools plans to secure additional funding to expand environmental awareness projects to include energy efficiency initiatives.
The Midlands Group of the South Carolina Sierra Club discusses environmental justice and holds local events in Richland and Lexington counties. Regular group programs are held via Zoom on the 4th Monday of every month from 7:00 to 8:00 PM. A link to participate in these conversations, click here: https://www.sierraclub.org/south-carolina/john-bachman-group-midlands-area
At UofSC, sustainability opportunities are available year-round for community members, students, alumni, faculty and staff to get involved on campus. Involvement opportunities include sustainability events with partner organizations, the sustainable Carolina garden and green office certification. To find out more about university opportunities, click on the link here https://sc.edu/about/offices_and_divisions/sustainability/index.php