The Green School House Effect

December 2020

Cafeteria Composting at North Central Junior High

North Central Junior high school in North Liberty has been composting in their cafeteria since 2006. A former science teacher, Dr. Witinok, implemented the comprehensive composting program. Day time custodial staff members, Bruce Sloan and Marlin Wiskus have taken over the efforts and oversee the process in the cafeteria to make sure contamination rates are low. Students and staff have been dedicated to reducing the amount of organic food waste that goes into our landfill.

Composting as a practice has many environmental benefits such as reducing carbon emissions, enriching soil with nutrients, and increases soil’s ability to retain moisture. Better yet, using compost instead of artificial fertilizers reduces the amount of chemicals and pesticides in the environment. Also, soil that retains its moisture well is less susceptible to erosion and runoff. Composting not only benefits the soil but our atmosphere as well. Carbon sequestration is the process of atmospheric carbon being put back into the soil where it can be stored for years.

If you want to learn more about how carbon sequestration works and how it can help solve climate change, check out the documentary, “Kiss the Ground.” Teachers, if you are interested in utilizing the documentary in your classroom contact us for educational materials!
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What is an energy audit?

Green Iowa AmeriCorps members are ready to tackle energy audits! We’re interested in using behaviour based strategies in which faculty, staff, and students can be significant players in reducing electricity use in school buildings. An energy audit consists of doing classroom and office check ups to determine where improvements can be made.

  • Are doors closed to keep temperatures constant? Are there blocked air vents? Check for gaps around doors, air conditioners or windows.
  • Are there lights on in unoccupied spaces. Could the lights be turned off to utilize natural light instead?
  • Is equipment powered down and unplugged when not in use?

A Silver Lining to Online Schooling!

Transitioning to 100% online learning presents teachers, administrators, students, and parents alike with new challenges. There is however, a silver lining in closing schools down: A significant reduction in energy use and air pollution.

Not only is less energy used by the building since students are staying home, but air pollution caused by road traffic has decreased dramatically since the pandemic started. Below you can see the results of the lockdown in New Delhi. On the left is The India Gate in October 2019, and on the right is the same location in April 2020. Check out this article for more information!


Have any of you had the chance to plant some bulbs yet?

Mary Lestina’s Gardening Club at City High has. In just two afternoons, 100 flower bulbs, which included tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth along with 50 garlic cloves that will develop into garlic bulbs were planted at City High’s school garden. These plants are a prelude to spring when March can seem full of promises and false starts. The bulbs breaking through the soil are some of the first plants to grow as the garden awakens come Spring. If you want to get involved with planting and harvesting this spring at City High, contact us or Mary Lestina.

How to Holiday Responsibly

This is the year of new traditions can give you a chance to get creative with the ways you stay connected to the people you care about and to nature. The smallest things can have a big impact this holiday season, so why not take the opportunity to rethink the way you decorate, gift give, and wrap those gifts.


  • Ask friends and family if they have extra.

  • Decorate with nature: Think pinecones, popcorn garland, evergreen boughs.

  • Look for items second hand. There are plenty of holiday decorations at thrift stores, vintage shops, or your favorite local consignment store.

Gift Giving

  • Get crafty. A homemade gift is a wonderful way to slow down and be more intentional about your gift giving this season.

  • Try avoid frivolous gift giving - no one likes cheap gifts that break. Find something that's better for the planet, leave the smallest imprint possible.

  • Think of alternatives to “stuff” like making a donation to a cause or organization in someone’s name. We’re interested in creating a responsible economy by minimizing excessive consumerism.

  • Buy second hand, buy local, buy ethical. There are a myriad of reasons to bypass buying new from a corporate retailer or 2 day mail delivery service. The environmental benefits alone are worth it. Buying locally reduces processing of goods, packaging, and transportation waste which leads to less pollution. When we buy local, our money stays local, and it strengthens the local economy.

Eco friendly gift wrapping Challenge!

Most holiday wrapping paper is not recyclable. Try wrapping gifts in recyclable or reusable materials.
    • Try Furoshiki (Japanese fabric wrapping)

    • Use recyclable Kraft paper or even newspaper.

    • Ditch the plastic bows, ribbons & tinsel.

    • Try using hemp or twine to fasten pinecones, holly, or evergreens to your parcel.


Clubs and Events

  • Dec. 2nd 2020: ECO Film discussion: Bag It-Is Your Life Too Plastic? With City of Iowa City's Green Iowa AmeriCorps Energy and Community team!
  • Dec. 5th & 12th 2020: Online Farmer's Market
  • Dec. 10th, 2020: Why Trees Matter-Our Woodland Legacy Symposium presented by Trees Forever
  • Dec. 14th, 2020: Learn about the world's most endangered shark, the Sawfish. Register here.
  • Green Iowa AmeriCorps Energy & Community Winter Break Virtual Camp - Register here.
  • Johnson County Conservation Events
  • Wickiup Hill Learning Center Events


Lisa Stark |

Meg SmolikHagen |

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