ENVIRONMENT

NJ first lady visits green elementary school in honor of Earth Week

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

These fifth graders are lined up to welcome two special guests to their elementary school in honor of Earth Week.

“I start off by saying, ‘Good morning First Lady Murphy, good morning Commissioner McCabe, welcome to George L. Catrambone School where we are committed to making green the way to learn, play and live,” recited fifth grader Felix Serrano.

The K-5 school opened about four years ago with a strong focus on green education. In one classroom students learn about saving energy by testing temperature and lighting.

“They help come up with ways for teachers to reduce the amount of energy being used: shutting down their computers at night, turning off laptops and unplugging things for the weekend,” said teacher Kelly Stone.

The school says efforts like these helped them cut energy consumption by 40 percent, and cut utility costs by $20,000 in the 2015 to 2016 fiscal year. Students even take what they learn home.

“Every time we finish using the room or the bathroom I tell my parents to turn the lights off so we don’t use too much energy,” said fourth grade student Maria Luisa.

In 2017, the school was awarded a green ribbon by the U.S. Department of Education for efforts like tracking energy consumption, using bottle filling stations throughout the building, eliminating the usage of plastic straws and creating their own garden.

In the cafeteria kids were eating what they planted.

“What I would teach someone watching this is to go help the environment because we could be in great danger by littering,” one student said.

In a question and answer, the elementary students asked tough questions about cleaning New Jersey’s shores. They also asked what the state is doing for clean energy, and if there was any progress on getting rid of plastic bags in New Jersey.

The first lady did hint she was in talks, and said these students give her hope for the future. The acting commissioner joked she’s waiting for them to apply to work at the DEP.