On June 28, 2022, the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education unanimously adopted a transformative sustainability policy. Titled Policy ECA, Sustainability, the policy commits the school district to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2027 and 100% by 2035 compared to 2005 levels, in line with the County’s Climate Action Plan. To achieve this, the policy centers environmental sustainability in every aspect of MCPS, from the type of energy powering school buildings to the depth of climate change education students receive in the classroom.
“It’s not just new construction, it’s the way we think about transportation…it’s the way we think about our athletic fields. We see emails about ‘the grass [being] too long’. That will become the norm: restoring the public space to natural space as part of climate initiatives,” explained Seth Adams, the Director of the Department of Facilities Management, at the June 28th Board Business Meeting.
With 91 certified green schools, robust outdoor education programs, and countless student green teams, sustainability has been a focus in MCPS. For many students, however, these efforts fell short. In 2021, one youth organization, the Montgomery County Student Government Association Environmental Taskforce, successfully advocated for refillable water stations in all schools. This year, a local Sunrise Movement group and the MoCo Green New Deal Internship circulated a petition and led a rally calling on MCPS to get serious about climate change.
Taking it beyond the County, youth groups like Compostology co-led a successful postcard campaign in support of state bill (now law) SB124, which created a $250k grant for school food recovery programs. There are also many students who actively recycle, plant trees, advocate at townhalls, and far more. For years, students have been at the forefront of the school district’s climate movement.
Now, many of their demands, including better education about the climate crisis, renewable energy investments, waste reduction, equitable implementation of sustainable practices, and more are reflected in the policy. “It’s aggressive, but we think, truly, that if this becomes part of our norm…we can start to set the environmental standards that are necessary to leave this a better place for our current students and those students that follow behind,” Adams noted.
To learn more, check out this Bethesda Beat article or read about the policy’s development here. To contact the MCPS Sustainability Division, email Sustainability@mcpsmd.org.
Blog post written by Lulu August, Montgomery County Climate Intern Summer 2022 (she/her)