OPS shows growth in enviornment efforts, goals nearly met

Amber Roth, Copy Editor

A 10-year green schools initiative has come to an end with Omaha Public Schools (OPS) seeing significant improvements but falling shy of three out of four goals.

The project was meant help the district become greener, run more efficiently and become more environmentally friendly. The green project started in 2009 and concluded in Dec. and measured the district’s water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, recycling and energy star rating.

“It was put together to enhance things like recycling, understanding what recycling means, understanding what it means to be energy efficient and how to become more energy efficient and do more recycling, how to do things to protect our environment,” supervisor of the supply chain Jim Skrobo said.

The one goal that OPS met was reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are released. The district reduced their gas emissions by .58 MtCO2e per occupant, which exceeded their goal by .14.

“We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions utilizing a number of strategies and tactics, including, but not limited to, installation of more energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling equipment and sensors that automatically shut off lights in rooms that are not being used,” executive director of district communications and external relations Jeremy Maskel said.

One of the district’s other goals was to reduce the amount of water used. Schools in the district have installed more water-efficient equipment and landscape that is native to the Omaha area. When the green initiative was started, the water usage was at more than 2,500 gallons per occupant in 2009. OPS fell short of their goal for reducing the amount of water used by 15 gallons.

Some OPS schools have implemented new water systems for different science projects and to help conserve the amount of water used.

“They have water retention areas where they can do science experiments by taking the run-off water going into the sewer. It goes through a retention area and it can be used for education purposes,” Skrobo said.

Different schools in the district have done many different things in order to cut back on things like water waste and the amount of energy they consume. Their goal for getting a higher energy star rating was not met. Their current rating is 55.4, which missed the mark for their goal of a rating of 70 by the end of 2019.

OPS was most unsuccessful in the recycling and waste department. The district’s diversion rate is more than 7 percent less than their goal. However, the current diversion rate has doubled from the original rate. There are also 11 schools that have started composting in the cafeterias.

The OPS Nutrition Services did things like used reusable trays and donating the leftover food from schools to people in the community who need it to help fulfill the district’s goal.

“Efforts by Nutrition Services make one of the largest contributions to our recycling program, since their team interacts with so many students and staff during the day,” Omaha Public Schools environmental services supervisor Shelley Bengston said.

Since 2009, seven schools in the district were awarded the US Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Award. This award is one of the highest awards for green schools in the country.

“2020 goals are currently under development and thoughtful use of resources will continue to be a priority,” Maskel said.