As we reflect back on the past year, the Go Green Initiative is proud to share the success story of one of our New Jersey GGI Districts. Through hard work and determination, the little district that could has made impressive strides towards their sustainability goals.
The Camden City School District first came to GGI in 2015 when the school district was under threat to be fined by the state of New Jersey for not recycling, up to $3,000 per day per school. Camden knew they needed help in their efforts, and that’s when Jill Buck, our Founder & CEO, and Wayles Wilson, now team member of the Go Green Initiative, connected.
“At the time, I was working with Camden on the District side, and Jill really helped me come up with a plan that was reasonable and achievable. If anybody could help, it’s the Go Green Initiative.” – Wayles Wilson
Camden became the first urban, low-income district in the state of New Jersey to have a Sustainable Jersey for Schools (SJS) certified school, Brimm Medical Arts at Camden High School.
Four years later, all 17 schools within the Camden City School District are applying for certification.
Wayles shares that she is excited and proud to see Camden dig deeper into the other GGI focus areas. This past school year, Camden has prioritized conserving energy, clean food supply, clean air, and waste reduction. The first step was re-igniting the district Green Team, which had been on hiatus during the pandemic.
On April 15th, after months of behind the scenes work, Camden officially launched a district-wide Green Team, supported by the Division of Operations with Quincy Smith, Brisalee Liriano, and Arlethia Brown, composed of central office staff and leadership, as well as school and union representatives.
“A Green Team, whether at the district or school level, is a team of champions who lead the work that inspires other individuals to take part.”
In May, with the support of GGI, Camden outlined and resurfaced a Sustainability Plan for all schools within their district. The plan sets quality standards for staff, students, and community, protecting them from environmental toxins. This includes indoor air quality, pest control, energy conservation, environmentally sustainable business practices, and certified green cleaning. Many strategies in the Plan had already been implemented during school year 2021-2022, including an extensive Green Cleaning program and usage of Energy Star Portfolio Manager for energy tracking and efficiencies.
Camden also implemented many strategies for school nutrition and clean food supply. School gardens are being grown and expanded by working with Food Corps and Common Market. Students will now have agricultural and farming learning opportunities at 12 schools.
Along with gardens, Camden promotes locally grown foods by participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Partnering with Jersey Grown, Aramark, Johnson’s Farm, and Common Market gives students access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables for their breakfast, lunch, and snack during class. The Food Corps members also created nutrition classes about how to use fresh produce in various recipes at home. They continue to work on growing gardens in all schools.
Arlethia Brown, the Senior Director of School Nutrition for the Camden City School District, was recently featured on the Go Green Radio podcast discussing sustainability principles implemented within Camden’s nutrition system.
While Camden has become a prime example of school sustainability, the fight to protect students from environmental harm is never done. We look forward to continuing to work with Camden, and all of our districts, in their mission to Go Green!
For more information, also read Wayles’s article in the Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly about SJS and Camden City School District.
“We have definitely made a name for ourselves in New Jersey in our ability to support districts, while working with Sustainable Jersey for Schools.”