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The Green Steps Schools Program: Empowering Tomorrow’s Sustainable Leaders

It is often said that our children are our future. As such, teaching kids about the importance of environmental conservation and stewardship to help protect the Earth and its fragile ecosystem and environment is essential. In the words of Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist Bertrand Piccard, “In the 21st century, I think the heroes will be the people who will improve the quality of life, fight poverty and introduce more sustainability.”

    Introducing and formulating sustainability and hands-on learning activities into educational programs is what Green Steps Schools is all about. By definition, Green Steps Schools is an environmental education program established in 2003 by Keep the Midlands Beautiful, Sonoco Recycling, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling. The initiative encourages individual schools in South Carolina to take annual steps toward becoming more environmentally responsible.

    Since its origination, the program has been very successful in enlisting dozens of schools in the greater Midlands and throughout the state. Businesses, sustainable organizations, and educational learning centers partner together to create unique, fun learning projects and activities specifically designed to cultivate an early appreciation of and commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. In addition, the program helps to equip educators with vital tools, innovative resources and information to help enrich the classroom learning experience.

    As part of the Green Steps Schools initiative, Sonoco Recycling, program co-founder, supports education and community recycling programs in Columbia-area schools by offering free field studies, school presentations and teacher workshops. Each year, S.C. Green Step School Awards are given for well-established, model-quality projects that help conserve, protect or restore a partnering school’s environment. Sonoco Recycling has also created a fun and engaging education center. By way of closed-circuit TV, students can get a behind-the-scenes look at its recycling plant to see how thousands of pounds of paper, metal and plastic are separated, processed and prepared for market. Students learn how some recycled materials find a new “life” as products.

    This month, we celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 22; and with the Earth’s natural resources in steady decline, it is vital that the next generation of “green thinkers” and leaders learn and embrace the concepts of sustainability, conservation and preservation today. And the Green Steps Program is a great way to support this effort. Schools interested in participating in the program only need to follow a simple enrollment process, which can be found by visiting the program’s website.


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