Parkway becomes the first district in Missouri to win a District Sustainability Award

Solar panels, composting and outdoor classrooms led Parkway to winning a District Sustainability Award from the U.S. Department of Education. Parkway is the first district in Missouri to win a District Sustainability Award and has six Green Ribbon schools.

The program has three pillars: reduced environmental impact and costs, improved health and wellness and effective environmental and sustainability education. Applicants must show progress across the three pillars to be considered for the award.

“I was ecstatic to hear that we had won the award and feeling extremely grateful to work in a district that recognizes the importance of sustainability and is so supportive in furthering the work toward reducing our environmental impact and preparing students to positively respond to the ever-changing world,” Parkway Sustainability Coordinator Hannah Carter said.

Parkway has had a 22% energy usage reduction since 2015 and diverts about 400 tons of waste from landfills yearly. The district’s rooftop solar project was completed in 2013, which installed over 1.1 megawatts of solar energy across all Parkway buildings.

“By reducing energy and water use, we reduce utility costs that are better spent in the classroom,” Carter said. “It is also recognized that in light of the climate crisis, reducing our environmental impact and preparing students for their future is our responsibility.”

Graphic showing how you can become more sustainable in your life (Addie Gleason)

Students can get involved in sustainability efforts through the Sustainable Schools Challenge. Making small changes in daily life or doing environmental activities are also ways students can reduce their carbon footprint. 

“Parkway West High School is perhaps what I would consider an emerging school within sustainability in Parkway. Student groups are starting to make efforts to head in the direction of reducing environmental impact,” Director of Sustainability and Purchasing Erik Lueders said. “Teachers are facilitating student growth and learning towards the subject and connecting resources to make the planet a better place. Administration is supporting work to facilitate this work. I’m excited to see what Parkway West High can achieve in the coming years.”

At West specifically, almost all lights are light-emitting diodes, and the Environmental Club signed up to participate in the Green Schools Quest and the Sustainable Schools Challenge. 

“As a school district, it is important that we prepare students for the reality of their future and what that may look like,” Carter said. “We have the ability to reduce our environmental impact and act as an example in our community. It is important that we take steps to reduce our contribution to global climate change for our future generations and the health of the planet.”

Environmental science courses such as Environmental Engineering are offered at Parkway high schools to provide further education about sustainability, which helped Parkway win the award.

“By definition, if we are not sustainable, there is an imbalance that can not persist. We as a society need to strive for a better balance for this and all future generations,” Lueders said. “We live in an exciting time where we have the opportunity to create the world we want to see. We all can make a difference if we work together. The solutions are there. The technology is there.”

The Green Ribbon Schools Recognition Award was created to encourage schools to be healthier and more sustainable.

“We have one Earth. One. There is no other option for us. We have shared resources that are depleting and a world whose climate is changing rapidly,” Lueders said. “This is not only bad for nature and the intrinsic value of biodiversity, but it is also unhealthy. An unhealthy planet will and is leading to catastrophic results for human society.”