East Brunswick Vo-Tech awarded Green Ribbon

EAST BRUNSWICK — East Brunswick Vo-Tech has been named a New Jersey Green Ribbon School in recognition of its commitment to environmental issues.

“We are very proud of this honor,” said Brian J. Loughlin, superintendent of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools. “East Brunswick Vo-Tech is the first vocational school in the state to achieve this recognition.”

The award was presented at the annual expo of the New Jersey School Building & Grounds Association in Atlantic City on March 17. The selection was made by representatives of the state Department of Education,

Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Audubon and a number of other environmental groups.

Principal Jeffrey Bicsko explained that the selection is based on three “pillars” of achievement in green action: reducing the school’s environmental impact, improving the health and wellness of students and staff, and initiating an effective environmental and sustainability curriculum.

“It starts out with small steps and blossoms into this whole school of thought,” he said. “The kids are thinking differently now. They are having discussions about what we need to do.”

“I think the great thing is that it’s student led,” Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dianne Veilleux said. “They’re teaching the adults.”

Efforts to lessen the school’s carbon footprint include an energy audit; installation of water bottle refilling stations to reduce the use of plastic bottles; growing food for use in culinary classes, the cafeteria and at area food banks; and efforts to repurpose materials rather than throw them away.

“It’s a comprehensive look at the physical plant of the school,” Veilleux said, including pest management and groundskeeping practices.

Wellness efforts include a fitness challenge in competition with other schools in the district, establishment of a cross-country team, and an annual 5K race that increase student engagement with the community.

The curriculum now includes a collegelevel course in conjunction with Stockton State College called “Principles of Sustainability.” The biology curriculum now includes a unit on sustainability, as do the various career majors.

There is a new green program of study in which students are introduced to possible careers in sustainable industries, such as alternative energy sources, including solar and wind generation.

“You have a school community that now thinks about its use of resources,” Veilleux said.

East Brunswick Vo-Tech was one of four New Jersey schools to receive the honor, joining Princeton Day School, Timber Creek Regional High School in Camden County and William Davies Middle School in Atlantic County.

These schools now are in the running to be named National Green Ribbon Schools; the selections will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education on Earth Day, April 22.