KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Jacob Chapman hopes to plant a rooftop garden at Olathe South High School, encourages classmates to recycle plastic bottles and paper, and wants them to reduce their use of disposables in the school cafeteria.
"Our school is farther along than some, but I'm sure we could do more," the 18-year-old said.
Chapman is among a growing group of students working to make schools greener as he learns more about the environment.
While students push for more change, many Kansas City-area districts are embracing environmentally-friendly policies at schools, said Matt Riggs of the Mid-America Regional Council.
Riggs, outreach coordinator for MARC's solid waste management district, said many school districts are reducing energy and water use, taking steps to lower school-bus emissions and constructing green buildings.
One of the biggest benefits is that the practices are being taught to students, he said.
"The school becomes the model by which kids can see things in action," Riggs said. "... It's more of a holistic approach."
In the North Kansas City district, the new Staley High School should become a giant teaching tool, as it will be certified for its energy-saving and earth-friendly construction.
Olathe schools control thermostat settings and have installed energy-saving lights, said Bob Courtney, the district's energy manager.
The newest Blue Valley schools have been built to use maximum daylight, with adhesives and floor tiles that did not emit fumes and windows and mechanical systems that save energy.
Blue Valley was the first district in the nation to receive the Environmental Protection Agency's Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Model of Sustained Excellence award.
"Not only is it good for the environment, but most importantly for us, it creates exceptional learning environments for kids," said Dave Hill, the district's executive director of facilities and operations.