Are You Attending NRPA’s Green School?

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by Posted on December 10, 2013

Written by: Mike Trigg, Superintendent of Parks for the Waukegan Park District, Waukegan, Illinois.

I did, and highly recommend it to all park professionals. I am proud to say I am a graduate of the inaugural class of Green School.

I think NRPA President and CEO Barbara Tulipane said it best in the April 2012 Parks & Recreation Magazine “Perspectives” column: “The Green School is a way of the future. It is what our elected officials want us to do, and what the public wants.” 

So why did I attend Green School? Being green is a major focus of the Waukegan Park District’s 2010-2013 Strategic Plan. The plan’s implementation called for several green initiatives, one of which was development of an employee driven Green Team Committee to develop and implement best practices for sustainability and green practices. So, as chairman of the Green Team, I asked myself, “Where do I begin?”

Blog-Green-School-Mike-Trigg-Leads-A-Conservation-Leadership-Education-Session

Mike Trigg leads students from the Center for Conservation Leadership during an education day at the ravine at Roosevelt Park.

I saw the advertisement for the Green School and thought this would be a great opportunity to gain insight and instruction on going green. I was impressed with the opening banquet speaker the first year, Burnsville, Minnesota, Mayor Elizabeth Kantz.  Her talk set the stage for the week and urged us as park and recreation professionals to be environmentally responsible and green advocates for our community. Year Two proved to be no different and was just as impressive.

I have used a number of the topics and portions of the presentations from Green School sessions at our Green Team meetings. From a session on “Moving Toward Zero Waste,” the committee conducted a trash audit of our park cleanup operations, realizing that more than 75 percent of park trash is recyclable. We also initiated a tennis shoe recycling collection program in our recreation centers. Containers are located in two recreational facilities and the public is encouraged to drop off their worn out or unwanted athletic shoes. In the first full year, 675 pairs of athletic shoes were collected for recycling. Shoes are sent to Nike to be recycled into sports surfacing for running tracks and playgrounds. For 2013, an additional green initiative was conducting facility energy efficiency assessments. 

For the past two years, the Green Team partnered with Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Illinois (SWALCO), for a fall community electronics recycling event. During each event, more than 400 vehicles dropped off unwanted electronic recyclable items such as TVs, computers, batteries, Christmas lights and small appliances. Community participation has been outstanding, collecting an average of 30,000 pounds each year. During the community recycling events, as cars came through the line to drop off their unwanted electronic items, staff were able to chat with residents. Many commented about how great this event is, and asked if we will be holding this event next year. The district feels that we have created a “win-win” situation, helping residents by offering a convenient way to recycle items while helping the environment. The same can be said of the shoe recycling efforts, which gives the community a way to dispose of used shoes, while educating people about the importance of recycling. 

The Waukegan Park District won the Illinois Association of Park Districts’ Best of the Best Green Practices Award for 2013. The award cited the district’s Green Team and recycling efforts, including the community electronics recycling collections held the last two years.

And one last note, I know more agencies are finding it tough to fund professional development for their employees. Last year I was able to redeem our agency’s Toro TLC Points to assist with Green School tuition. Check out the Toro TLC-Toro Loyalty Counts Points program flyer to learn how you can do this, too.

Attending Green School laid the foundation for our agency to be the green advocate for our community. Contact me if you have any questions or want more information about Green School or our initiatives. 

Are you heading to Green School March 23-27, 2014? If so, what are you looking to learn? How has your agency gone green? What has been your biggest challenge in going green? Share in the comments below or tweet us @NRPA_News!

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