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Eco-School Network adds West Linn to its growing organization



TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - The West Linn Eco-School Network will work closely with West Linn-Wilsonvilles CREST (Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies), like with the school districts farm-to-school program pictured here.The Portland-metro area is known for its emphasis on protecting the environment while working toward sustainable living. For years now the city has focused on minimizing its carbon footprint while promoting green practices to preserve the lush trees and various outdoor wonders Oregon enjoys.

Last week members of the West Linn community took the first step toward their own goal of furthering sustainable thinking in West Linn-Wilsonville schools by taking part in the first meeting of the new West Linn Eco-School Network.

A handful of parents and teachers from primary schools across West Linn gathered together to meet with Eco-School Network founder Jeanne Roy to learn about the unique program that currently exists in Portland and Beaverton, and how they can become agents of change in their own school communities. The Eco-School Network, which is sponsored by the nonprofit organization Center for Earth Leadership, provides a model for changing culture in small communities just like West Linn’s primary schools.

“Our goal has been to change the culture of our region so that it will be a model of sustainability,” Roy said. “We’re focusing on individuals and how individuals can be effective in doing that. We found that individuals can be most effective on the very small scale, right in the organizations that they’re a part of already. And that could be their neighborhood, or their workplace, or their school. So if you as an agent of change bring about a change in your school, then that can have a ripple effect and bring about change in the community.”

Representatives from Bolton Primary, Sunset Primary, Cedaroak Park Primary and Trillium Creek Primary were all at the first West Linn Eco-School Network meeting Oct. 6, where Roy and Beaverton Eco-School Network founder Marnie Bennett introduced those in attendance to everything the organization has to offer, and how they can become agents of change in their own schools.

Roy, with the help of Bennett, started the Eco-School Network, which is free for any members wishing to join, eight years ago at Skyline Elementary School in Portland. The network took off and quickly spread to Beaverton, where Bennett said it still thrives today. She said she’s seen the culture and thinking about environmental sustainability change dramatically in her son’s own school in particular, and credits the Eco-School Network for expediting the process.

“We have one parent in particular at (Skyline Elementary), who said it would be awesome if we formed a network so that everybody doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel when they’re starting green teams and other programs — people supporting each other, and meeting with one another, and forming a community. We started it there and it just took off,” Bennett said.

“In the Portland area we’ve actually seen these changes in culture happen,” Roy added. “When we got rid of Styrofoam trays one by one-by-one in some of the Portland schools, then gradually all the surrounding schools went that direction. Now Styrofoam isn’t looked on favorably in the area.”

The organization provides a network of contacts across Portland, Beaverton and West Linn who are all similarly working toward environmental sustainability in their schools. It also provides resources, like intricate models for green teams, garden programs and composting programs in cafeterias among other things.SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Cedaroak Park Primary Garden Club is just one example of the type of programs the West Linn Eco-School Network hopes to implement at all West Linn schools in the future.

“Our new website, ecoschoolnetwork.org, is a forum where you can actually communicate with other members,” Bennett said. “The other side to that is the documents it provides. We have tons of resources on all kinds of different initiatives. Say you wanted to start a Halloween Costume swap at your school, and you don’t have any idea how to do it, you can go on there and not only will it walk you through how to do it, but it’s got signage you can print out, a sign-up sheet — everything you could possibly need.”

Prospective West Linn Eco-School Network members in attendance Oct. 6 shared their current involvement and roles at their respective schools, as well as some of the green programs already underway. Trillium Creek Primary parent and Green Team Co-Chair Nicole Anderson, for example, shared about her school’s ongoing garden program, which involves composting and rainwater reclamation.

Bolton Primary fourth grade teacher Patrick Sweeney told the group about two recent projects at his school that led to a digital school directory, and a PTA sponsored-program that purchased BPA-free water bottles for every student as well as a bottle filling station that’s helped to the consumption of bottled water in the school. He added that this year’s fifth grade class is working on another environmentally sustainable project, which inspired attendees from other schools to look at similar ideas in their own schools.

Sunset Primary, meanwhile, tackled a variety of different target-based programs last year, and is working on new endeavors in 2016-17. The school’s Green Team held a “ride/walk to school week,” where students were encouraged to ride the bus or walk to school, and Sunset Green Team parents then counted the number of cars that entered the parking lot in hopes of minimizing trips. They also counted the number of paper copies the school’s office was making per week throughout the school year to try and lessen paper consumption.

Roy said she was impressed with how far along the various schools already are, but West Linn attendees insisted they wanted to do more. They, along with other interested West Linn community members, will now take part in leadership training during the next couple months where they will hope to build up West Linn’s network and eventually implement a long-term, sustainable program for years to come.

“It’s a four-session training for parents who would like to bring about some change in their school,” Roy said. “We have a planning worksheet that we work through that includes the first steps might you take, what strategies tend to be successful and how to recruit or invite people … to keep the initiative going long-term.”

Bennett said she’s excited to add West Linn to the Eco-School Network, as well as see how green programs in West Linn’s schools continue to grow and thrive into the distant future.

“I’ve met so many people that can help me with initiatives, or help me with ideas. (The Eco-School Network) is a really valuable resource all the way around,” Bennett said. “We’re so excited to get it started here in West Linn.”

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

WHAT: West Linn Eco-School Network Leadership Training

WHEN: Oct. 20, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, Dec. 1

TIME: 7-8:45 p.m.

WHERE: Market of Choice, 5639 Hood St.

RSVP: Those interested in attending are asked to contact Jeanne Roy at 503-244-0026

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