Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD)
Shea Cunningham, Principal and Executive Strategist of BALANCEDAPPROACH, established and managed an award-wining sustainability program for Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD). The program was created to build a community of eco-literate and globally responsible citizens prepared to thrive in the green economy, and transform the District’s operations into a beacon of sustainability by way of reducing waste, and increasing resource efficiencies.
As the Inaugural Sustainability Program Director, Ms. Cunningham implemented, managed and tracked recycling, composting and landfill waste reduction, pollution reduction, energy efficiency and water conservation efforts across the district’s ten campuses. She designed a co-curricular eco-literacy program, developed District sustainability policies led the effort that resulted in the adoption of a District-wide Environmental Preferential Purchasing Policy and a Comprehensive Green Schools policy. She designed and implemented educational materials, assemblies and trainings; co-wrote and managed two CalRecycle grants totaling over $300k which enabled the purchased of custom sorting stations and other waste management supplies for the District. Furthermore, she developed a green purchasing program; and established an EPA Portfolio energy tracking system.
Ms. Cunningham also facilitated the installation of 750 kW solar PV system, which accounts for 50% of the main campus energy consumption (about 50% of the total District) and saves CCUSD over $400k annually. CCUSD’s solar PV system avoids an estimated 2,333 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. Furthermore, the District is now diverting approximately 10 tons of recycling materials and 450 tons of food waste compost from the landfill per year, which constitutes over 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases avoided every school year, and an estimated 80% of total waste is diverted from the landfill.
The District-wide program now features the following at each school site:
- Student leaders via student council, student clubs and classrooms engaged in daily or weekly leadership activities, including peer-to-peer education, tending to edible gardens and conducting Green5 raffles.
- Sustainability Staff Liaisons (teachers and administrators) meet quarterly to give feedback on progress and challenges, share best practices and brainstorm ideas.
- Regular trainings on environmental stewardship, including waste, energy and water auditing, solar PV tracking and discussions, analysis of smart technologies and impacts on energy use, waste reduction analysis and techniques, messaging and social media campaigns.
- District-wide semi-annual administration, analysis and dissemination of the My Actions Count Survey, which includes questions pertaining to the “Five Rs.”
- Regular meetings with custodians and food service staff to ensure they are being provided adequate support and are engaging in the program.
- A “Rethink Food Waste” social engagement program focused on reducing food waste and sharing food with local family “back pack” program and homeless shelter. Training includes building knowledge of poverty and hunger and correlation with energy and water usage, and associated GHG emissions. This program was launched in collaboration with the California EPA.
In 2017, CCUSD was one of five School Districts in the United States to receive a US Department of Education Green Ribbon Award for demonstrating exemplary achievement in the Green Ribbon Award’s “Three Pillars.” Pillar I: reduce environmental impact and costs; Pillar II: improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and Pillar III: provide effective environmental education that teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, civic skills, and green career pathways.
In addition to the US Green Ribbon Award, CCUSD was awarded the following awards under the leadership of Ms. Cunningham:
- California Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Green Achiever Award to CCUSD (2017)
- Cornell University’s Smarter Lunchrooms Program Gold Level Award to CCUSD (2016)
- SoCal Environmental Excellence Development (SEED) Award, Ed & Outreach to CCUSD (2015)
- CA Green Schools Leadership Award for Leadership in Energy to CCUSD (2013)