HIGHLANDS RANCH - Makenna Hollingshead is one of 7,000 students around the district making sure her school is being environmentally friendly. The sixth grader is part of the "Green Team", an effort which is now gaining national awards.
"It's really such an honor because our Green Team has been working so hard this year," said Hollingshead, a student at Copper Mesa Elementary School in Highlands Ranch.
Six years ago, the district launched this initiative with the idea that the students can be in charge of several aspects of making their schools 'greener.' Now, Douglas County Schools are being recognized nationally.
For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Education decided to offer a "Green Ribbon" award to school districts for their efforts at being sustainable. Despite being known as a conservative school district, Douglas County is of only 14 school districts nationwide to receive this award.
"It's really the top recognition we can earn for this type of thing," said Lee Smit, Sustainability Manager for Douglas County Schools.
Smit says the district started this approach not so much because of the idea of saving the Earth, he said it was about saving the dollars.
"The economic benefits everybody in our school district. The work we've done has saved $15 million in the last six years," said Smit. "While we are a conservative school district, we're saving a lot of money which conservatives love and we can put it back where it belongs which is in our schooling."
Hollingshead and her classmates point out that students can do simple things like recycling as much as possible, use reusable water bottles, and limit paper towel usage in the bathroom.
"We have over 600 students in our school and if every student is only using three pumps of paper towel, then that makes a big difference," said Makenna.
Her school along with Flagstone Elementary in Castle Rock received additional honors on Thursday. The National Wildlife Federation gave each school the "Eco-Schools Award" and the right to fly a "Green Flag" over their building. Only 15 schools nationwide have ever received this distinction from this group calling themselves the 'nation's largest conservation organization'.
"It's just an inspiration for everybody else to start becoming 'green'," said Makenna.
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