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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Two local schools are among 46 across the country to be named a “Green Ribbon School” by the U.S. Department of Education. The schools got this award for the many ways they’re helping the environment in their school facilities, classes and programs.

Mt. Lebanon High School and Wexford Elementary School are being honored Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C. for the incredible ways they’re helping the environment.

We are featuring both schools, starting with Mt. Lebanon High School.

mt lebanon high school cafeteria Kidsburgh: Mt. Lebanon High School Awarded For Environmental Efforts

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Lunchtime at Mt. Lebanon High School is like a factory; 1,700 kids eating over 3 hours each day, but they don’t just take the easy way out. They make the extra effort to help the environment, even though it takes more time, money and energy.

“It’s not that hard to do. As long as you’re aware of the impact you’re making, it’s easy to make a difference,” senior Henry Silverman said.

The cafeteria provides reusable plates, trays and bowls to reduce waste, uses recyclable and biodegradable plates and cups in place of Styrofoam, provides locally sourced, healthy and gluten-free food options, and composts the food waste from the kitchen like rinds and and leftovers, which are given to a local farm and turned into mulch.

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When the school was renovated in 2009, they designed it with a lot of windows to bring in natural light, not just for aesthetics but to reduce the number of electric lights, and those electric lights are all on sensors. But students are taking it one step further, working to get those electric lights to be LED.

“Me and my friends are working on a Powerpoint right now to present to the school board about switching the bulbs in the skywalk to LED bulbs, and we’ve already done the math, and it would save a bunch of kilowatt hours and money every year,” senior Joe Albers explained.

“There’s an initial cost to some of these initiatives, but in the long term, it certainly does save you money. We’re spending less in utility costs. We’re able to recycle much more than we were in the past. We really have some very interesting initiatives where kids feel connected to their environment,” Mt. Lebanon Schools Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said.

In addition to the green facility, pesticides are prohibited on the plants and garden. The school also supports a student-led environmental club and requires a full-year class in environmental geoscience where students learn about how their actions make a difference in the environment — good or bad.

“This class has changed my outlook on life more than any class in high school, probably,” Albers said.

If you’d like to get your kids excited about STEM learning like these kids are doing, STEM week is coming up the week of Sept. 17 – 23. STEM Fest at the Mall at Robinson on Saturday, Sept. 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. will have all kinds of hands-on activities for kids of all ages. There will be everything from virtual reality and forensic science to stem-related career opportunities for high-school-aged kids.

Kristine Sorensen