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Preparing a New Generation of Conservation Leaders

2012-12-01, Department, by Danielle Taylor

Green School attendees engage in hands-on projects with real-world applications.Maybe you’ve heard of NRPA’s Green School, which will be held for its second year this February, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you or one of your employees. After all, unlike some of NRPA’s other professional development schools, such as the Directors’ School, Event Management School, or Park and Recreation Maintenance Management School, the Green School isn’t geared toward one specific job function or title.

In fact, the lessons learned at the Green School can be applied to just about any job in the field of parks and recreation, because every employee working in this industry should be actively promoting the message of conservation. Although it is primarily geared toward the park and recreation professional, this school is also designed for anyone who has been charged to become a leader of sustainability in their community. The two-year program, consisting of one week per year, will provide you with the ability to:
- Improve your facility’s environmental performance while reducing risk and liability
- Reduce your waste management budget
- Creatively reuse materials and minimize waste production
- Lead green initiatives in your community
- Become environmentally responsible in your operations
- Educate your community on the importance of environmental stewardship
- Position your agency as role models for environmental stewardship in your community.

Still not convinced? Don’t take our word for it! Three Year One graduates from the inaugural 2012 session share their feedback on their experiences below. We spoke with Stephanie Neal, assistant division chief for the Maintenance and Development Division of the Prince George’s County, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; Mike Trigg, superintendent of parks for the Waukegan Park District in Waukegan, Illinois; and Joe Brady, natural resources manager, Parks and Building Services with Metro Parks Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington.

How do green efforts factor into your work?
Mike Trigg: As superintendent of parks, I am the chairman of the District’s Green Team Committee. The Green Team was formed as a 2011 Strategic Plan initiative to develop and implement best practices for sustainability and green practices.

Stephanie Neal: From the park maintenance aspect, our department has made significant efforts to embrace green initiatives by seeking out and utilizing “greener” and more environmentally friendly cleaning products, floor-care products, and maintenance equipment. Also, during these recent times of economic challenges, our department has been working toward reducing our mowing efforts throughout our county.

Joe Brady: Part of my job is to chair our District Sustainability Workgroup. This team is a group of staff from all over the district who collaborate on issues pertaining to sustainability and the district’s Green Agenda.


How did you first hear about NRPA’s Green School? What made you decide to sign up?
Neal:
I first came across this new school while visiting the NRPA website in the spring of 2011. It really caught my interest as I was seeking training on how to apply “green” efforts into park maintenance management.

Brady: I read about it in Parks & Recreation Magazine and chatted about Oglebay with several colleagues who have attended other NRPA schools at the campus. To me, sustainability is as much about influencing behavior change in my friends, neighbors, and colleagues as it is about finding new and inventive ways to solve environmental problems. In order to become a more effective change agent, I needed to find new outlets to contact others in my industry who are dealing with similar problems.


What was the educational experience like? Tell me about some of the different education sessions and hands-on learning opportunities.
Brady:
The majority of the classes are presentation style, which is an effective way to teach about case studies and present new ideas and innovations. In addition, there were several hands-on classes—conducting a waste audit was one such example. Like many of the schools that NRPA sponsors, I not only learn from the instructors, I also learn how other agencies address issues from the many varied students that attend. It is real-world learning.


What did you learn that you’ve been able to apply to your agency? Did you take home any ideas that have helped your agency save money?
Neal:
Our department’s policy board recently approved our Sustainable Mowing Program, which was developed over this past year to address the reduction of our negative impact on the environment, as well as reducing the economic impact of our mowing program.

Brady: We are moving through a process with an energy services provider to do district-wide facility upgrades aimed at lowering our carbon footprint and lowering our fixed energy costs.

Trigg: I have utilized a number of the topics and portions of PowerPoint presentations from sessions at Green School at our [agency's] Green Team meetings. From the sessions on “Moving Toward Zero Waste,” the committee conducted a Trash Audit in July of our park clean-up operations, realizing more than 75 percent of park trash is recyclable. Also, we have initiated a Tennis Shoe Recycling collection program in our Recreation Centers.
In November, the Green Team partnered with SWALCO, Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Illinois, for a Community Electronics Recycling Event. Community participation was outstanding—we gathered nearly 40,000 pounds of electronic recyclable items.


Would you recommend Green School to other parks and recreation industry professionals? Do you plan to attend Year Two in 2013?
Neal:
The first year was well worth the expense and time spent, and I am planning on attending Year Two of the Green School so I may further my knowledge in this area and to learn some techniques on how to capture the economic impact of going green. I highly recommend that park and recreation professionals attend this school to learn about how others in this industry are benefiting their agencies and their stakeholders by addressing “green” solutions. It will be a win-win situation. Because these learning sessions are so varied, I would recommend all levels of management, administrators, and planners attend this school.

Trigg: I have already registered to attend the Year Two Session in 2013. I would recommend Green School to all park and recreation agencies. For me, it is laying the foundation for our agency to be the green advocate for our community and accomplish our strategic goal.
Is there anything else you think NRPA members should know about Green School?

Brady: If your organization is committed to improving its sustainability ethic and lowering its carbon footprint, NRPA’s Green School is a great opportunity to learn about developing industry trends and techniques and meet other professionals who share the same aspirations. In addition, the dessert table at Oglebay is worth the trip in itself!


Green School Details
When: February 24–March 1, 2013
Where: Oglebay Resort & Conference Center, Wheeling, West Virginia
Package Cost: Starts at $1,965 for NRPA members
Package Includes: All educational sessions, five nights lodging, breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday, Sunday reception and dinner, Monday reception, Tuesday reception, Thursday evening recognition reception and dinner, beverage tickets, daily coffee/beverage breaks, Friday continental breakfast.
For More Information: www.nrpa.org/green-school 

Danielle Tayloris Associate Editor of Parks & Recreation ([email protected]).

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