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Fall 2010
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Environmental Education at Urban

Urban’s coursework and student activities around environmental education and sustainability have always been a strong part of the school’s curriculum. From Urban’s pioneering California Studies class to many of the school’s more recent offerings, students are given the opportunity to discover underlying historical, social and political realities that have created our modern day ecology.

In addition to our academic courses, Urban has a number of hands-on initiatives for students and faculty/staff.

The Green Team is a student-organized and led group that aims to analyze and alter Urban’s institutional practices toward greater environmental sustainability. The group focuses primarily on addressing physical/plant sustainability, as well as working with the student body to explore and explain issues surrounding how one can personally impact global warming and other environmental matters.

We recently talked to Green Team Faculty advisor and Urban science chair Geoff Ruth about the student-run organization:

Q: Why do you believe the Green Team is an important organization for Urban?
A: Along with the Urban Ecology Club and Farm/Garden Club, the Green Team helps raise student and adult awareness of sustainability issues. Urban already has a small environmental footprint compared with other high schools, so there are relatively few obvious changes needed to decrease energy or water use. Thus, a big push of the Green Team is to increase everyone's consciousness around sustainability, so that people can internalize environmentally sound habits.

Q: How do you keep the students motivated to help change other students' habits and/or want to make changes in their own lives?
A: Green Team students are highly motivated around environmental sustainability. They intrinsically want to make our school and world a more sustainable place. Like most Urban students, they're busy and sometimes overcommitted, so students sometimes need reminders or pushes to follow through with their commitments and projects. The challenge in facilitating the Green Team isn't motivation, but rather just finding time to put our ideas into action.

Q: What do you consider the Green Team's key accomplishments/activities during the past year?
A: Green Team instituted several new ways of communicating with the Urban community this year. Students set up a Green Support email alias, and also set up a Green FAQ website. We created several additional sustainability videos, to teach people how to physically increase the sustainability of their homes. (To see some of the Green Team-produced videos, please visit Urban’s YouTube channel.)


The Environmental Council is a group of Urban teachers, administrators and students whose mission is to promote awareness, leadership and action around issues of environmental stewardship of the school. The Council was established in the fall of 2008, an outgrowth of our strategic plan, Vision 2013: Creating a Sustainable Future . The initial focus of the Council has been on institutional practices and measuring the school's carbon emissions using the Campus Carbon Calculator. In the spring of 2010, the Council established a goal of achieving a LEED EBOM (Existing Building Operations and Maintenance) rating, You can read more about our green facilities work here.

Follow our environmental education and programs by visiting the Environmental Education and Sustainability page on our website.
(Top three images) The Class of 2010 Cal Studies course studied California’s water system. Students went hiking, biking and kayaking around and on the state’s waterways over a six-week period. (Bottom image) Students in Urban’s Marine Biology course collecting data at a tide pool near Half Moon Bay.

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