New challenges

Welcome to sustainability in the Jemicy 2020-21 school year!

Mitigating the threat of COVID-19 has reshaped many of our school practices this fall. Students and faculty operate as a set of independent neighborhoods within the framework of our physical plant and campus. Prioritizing personal health and preventing the spread of the coronavirus have altered how we clean and disinfect, and reduced our typical re-use of many materials (goodbye, pizza box projects).

These changes have naturally affected how we attend to our sustainability mission. But, there is also good news. Rethinking how we can operate under new constraints has generated new strategies while reinforcing those that have become second nature to us. Efforts toward increasing earth-friendly practices continue to feature innovative problem-solving. Some of our mitigation initiatives help reduce waste and focus on creative ways to use our facilities more intensively and efficiently. 

  • Automatic water bottle fillers replace water fountains and coolers, reducing usage and eliminating single-use paper cups and bottled water.
  • Touchless features, which reduce energy and water waste, include indoor motion-sensing sink faucets, soap and sanitizer dispensers, light switches, and paper towel dispensers.
  • Lunches and snacks are all packed at home, rather than being purchased at school, reducing packaging.
  • Outdoor hand-washing stations for the JE neighborhood operate by foot pumps, reducing water usage.
  • Recycling collection continues, but is now managed within each neighborhood, increasing community involvement.greenjemicy2-2
  • Composting continues to manage lunch waste and provide soil for our gardens.
  • Using the new SchoolPass app and a new pickup pattern means more efficient dismissal and fewer idling cars.IMG_6860
  • Forest restoration is progressing, with the JE neighborhood planting seedlings and removing invasives.
  • Increased teaching, learning, and relaxation outdoors lowers indoor utility costs.

As we make our way through this year of unprecedented challenges, the GreenJemicy site will continue to highlight and celebrate campus sustainability efforts.

You can find us linked on the community/sustainability page of Jemicy’s website, or click the follow button below.

If you would like to become involved in our effort, share resources, or get more information, please contact Emily Stanley.

More pizza box projects

We are well past our 100th day in this 25th week of school. At 20 pizza boxes per week, it means these Y Groupers have delivered over 400 boxes since the beginning of the year! They continue to be collected weekly in the science building and are constantly put to use in different projects.

That’s a lot of cardboard saved from the landfill!IMG_4765

Here are some of our most recent upcycled cardboard projects:

Star (National Parks) and C Group (Fungi) dioramas

JE magnetic marble mazes

JE operation games

JE arcade games

JE cars


Recycling plastics

Due to an unforeseen backlog at the TerraCycle center, we discovered that we can no longer collect and ship our foil-lined snack bags for recycling. Disappointing as this is, we are instead shifting our focus to two new initiatives: recycling plastic films and batteries. We will be repurposing our TerraCycle bins for these items. Many thanks to Liz and Keri, who have spearheaded this effort and are volunteering their time and energy to transport these new recyclables to drop-off points!plastics

Liz created the following slides, which have been shared throughout the school, to clarify which plastics can and cannot be recycled. There are more recyclables, and more drop-off locations, than you might expect!

Plastic Wrapping Recycling

Sustainable businesses

I Group recently traveled to two Jemicy family-owned businesses, Bella Vita Farm and Ashton Manor Environmental, that incorporate environmental sustainability into their missions and practices. Upon their return, I Groupers reflected on their experiences and observations:

Jacob: “At Ashton Manor, when workers plant, the extra soil that is dug up is saved for use in other projects. Ashton Manor also repaired all of their own equipment and they kept bolts that were from older pieces of equipment and used them later on to repair trucks and other equipment. Also, instead of buying their own wood chips, they have a machine that shreds logs and turns them into wood chips. Something else that was new to me was the fact that you can turn old oil and gas into other products. They also give old tires to a company to reuse.

In the second place we went on the field trip, they had a hydroponic farm which is a farm without soil and with just water. The plants grow in the water without soil. They had tons and tons of fish. If one fish got sick or a fin or another body part started rotting, they would use the fish as fertilizer. After learning about the fish, we found out they used the fish poop in a special machine. In the center of the water in the machine was all of the nutrients of the poop. Then, they put the nutrients in the hydroponic tanks. Another thing that amazed me there is that they never let in new water unless some evaporated. They would reuse and clean the water.

At the same company, they had an ax-throwing business. At the ax-throwing, they demonstrated how to throw an ax. They also told us about how they reuse target boards. Some of the boards they make furniture out of and the others they gave to a neighbor who burns them for heat. “

Olivia: “I group went on a field trip to Max Schwartz’s dad’s sustainable and Chance’s mom’s aquaponics  farm. First, we had to take an hour bus ride to Max’s farm. When we got off the bus it was absolutely freezing outside. After, we went into a shed where they would fix different machines such as cars, snow plows and more. Later, we went back outside and got to see how all the different machines worked and even got to operate some of them,we also got to see a wood chipper make wood chips. Next, we went to see all the different plants that they got from all different parts of the country. Then, they showed us different parts of where they work in the building. And finally we planted trees and then got on the bus. I think it was a wonderful field trip.”IMG_E6744

Will: “Bella vita Farm was so cool. They used fish poop as fertilizer for plants. They have so many tilapia and koi. It was really hot in there and I was surprised how little algae was in the tanks.  From my experience, I get algae in my fish tanks all the time. They put molasses in the water to turn the water brown and block out the sun. They don’t use pesticides. They use lady bugs to kill aphids and fly strips to control flies. I wish there were more farms like this.” IMG_E6720

Paige: “At Bella Vita, they rarely have to get new water, because instead of getting rid of the water they clean the dirty water and then put it back. At Ashton Manor, they turn excess wood into wood chips, recycle oil, bolts, nuts, and tires, use mostly native plants and trees, and use leftover soil.”IMG_E6718

Max S.: “They had a huge hydroponic greenhouse. What is a hydroponic greenhouse? it’s basically: fish poop, and then the fish poop is used to grow plants, and the plants grow in water, plus the fish are used as food for people. They have 50 chickens and sell their eggs, but the egg cartons are recycled. “

Ava S.: “Once we were done learning about the ladybugs that eat aphids, we got to try parsley, mint ,and a banana shaped cucumber.”IMG_E6734

Nate: “This trip changed my thinking about how to be more sustainable.”

Hannah: “ They use fish waste as fertilizer and reuse most of their water.”IMG_E6728

Milo: Bella Vita reuses wood scraps as fuel.”

Hayden: “They let us run around in the cut cornfield, and it was so big and the air was so fresh. You could jump over the low parts of the cut corn stems, and there was so much room to run around  – I loved it.”IMG_E6743

Zac S.: “At Ashton Manor, my favorite part of the trip was planting a tree. I learned that they fixed broken machines with out getting a new machine, and I liked using the big power machines.”IMG_E6705

Harper: “When we went to the greenhouse we had to step inside hydrogen peroxide so we wouldn’t leave any chemicals or dirt from our feet.”IMG_E6737

Parker: “I had a lot of fun at Ashton Manor. AND THEY LET US IN FOR FREE!!!!! And I also learned that they fix machines and they recycle tires and they reuse nuts and bolts. AND THEY LET ME DRIVE A MINI EXCAVATOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”IMG_E6699

Katie: “We looked at all the different ways they help to save the environment. It was so cool. They recycled the oil, they reused things that they were broken, and they fixed all the damaged products. We went to look at how they worked in the office to reuse paper. They worked on computers to save a lot of paper.”IMG_E6665

Enrique: “My favorite part was when I was riding the machines. Also we planted trees. They told us that they recycle oil and wood.”

Jordan: “At Ashton Manor they did a lot of stuff for the environment. They plant trees and other plants. They recycle a lot of stuff like nuts and bolts, tires, and oil, and they plant native plants.”IMG_E6669





Upcycled air cannons

What can you do with yogurt containers, grocery bags, and creamer cups? Make air cannons, of course! Cut a hole in one end of the yogurt container, tape a bag over the other end, stack up a wall of creamer cups, and you have a mini weapon of mass destruction. We also discovered that you could use the cannon as a launcher, or to create a version of no-contact air hockey by trying to to get the creamer “puck” over your opponent’s side of the table first.

Design Challenge: Leaning Tower of Pizza

I Group students found yet another re-use for our pizza boxes this week in the “Leaning Tower of Pizza” Challenge. Each student received half of a pizza box and one meter of masking tape with the goal of constructing the tallest freestanding tower using the fewest resources. Students could “purchase” additional tape for the price of having 5 cm. of height/purchase deducted from their final measurement. Scissors, cardboard cutters, and rulers were provided. 

Congratulations to all participants for their ingenious designs!



Stewards of Sustainability

What does it mean to be a sustainability steward? Jemicy joined the Green Schools Alliance with this commitment: “As sustainability stewards, our school will set goals, take action, and monitor and share progress in the three sustainability leadership action tracks:

  • reduce our climate and ecological impact
  • educate and engage community
  • transform our institutional culture

Keri Weber’s Star Group students recently worked on essays reflecting on their stewardship role in the Jemicy community. They take pride in personally contributing to a healthier planet, educating others, and helping to transform our school culture.














Keeping it clean and green

Jemicy classrooms are multi-use spaces. They are places for learning, eating, socializing, building, playing, and exploring, making it a constant challenge to keep these environments clean and healthy for all of us.

In addition to being our primary recycling agents, the Star Group team has taken on the challenge of helping to switch from the use of chemical wipes to a new system. Each homeroom now uses a set of washcloths and environmentally friendly cleaner to wipe down tables after snack and lunch, which are then laundered weekly by faculty volunteers. Many thanks to Star Group and all of the homerooms that have adopted these new cleaning practices!

Stream clean-up

Along with being responsible stewards of our own campus, Jemicy encourages our community to help maintain the health of the larger watershed. Last spring a group of Jemicy folk – teachers, students, and their families – gathered for a Litter Blitz to collect trash along Herbert Run in Ellicott City.

Many of the same energetic group and several new participants showed up this fall weekend to tackle a new section of the Patapsco that is prone to dumping. Under the guidance of Patapsco Heritage Greenway organizers, volunteers filled dozens of large bags with both trash and recyclables from the stream banks, while numerous tires were hauled out of the river itself.

You just never know what you’re going to find…IMG_3292

We look forward to our next stream-cleaning event!