Observer Staff Writer
Although the Romeo Bullldogs are red and white, they don't turn a blind eye to green practices.
Romeo High School, thanks to the Students Enriching Romeo through Volunteer Experience (SERVE) program, has achieved the top ranking as a Michigan Green School for 2010-11.
The Michigan Green Schools Program, which is now in its third academic year, was started by a group of students at Hartland High School. The program allows counties to award the green status to schools that meet between 10 to 20 requirements.
The minimum is the "green" status by achieving 10 requirements, but schools can aim higher by meeting 15 for "emerald" and the maximum of 20 for "evergreen."
Kelly Carson, SERVE coordinator, worked on the application on behalf of the school. She said she originally applied for the green status, so she was surprised to find out that the school had achieved the top status of evergreen.
"I thought I applied for the minimum status because I turned in what I thought was 12 points, but apparently they picked it apart and found enough to give us the highest status," she said.
A total of 105 schools submitted applications by the March 1 deadline this year, with 101 achieving the official green school status. Of them, 32 earned the emerald status while 36 earned evergreen.
Each school's achievements were honored during a ceremony held April 11 at the Macomb Intermediate School District. A flag and a patch displaying the school's status were given to the school.
"The board is pleased to see this program grow each year," said Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Kathy Vosburg.
Carson said the initial step in applying was to start a paper recycling program, where a large bin in the parking lot is designated for collecting papers. She said since it began in September the students have enjoyed participating.
"The SERVE kids have, on an average about every two weeks, been collecting the recycling from around the school and taking it out to the bin," she said.
The other popular initiative was cleaning the school's courtyard, where students are planting native Michigan plants as a garden project. She said once the weather becomes warmer the project will resume.
"They were very excited to be able to work in the courtyard," she said. "I was just really surprised how many signed up."
The solar panel program at the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center was also hilighted in the application.
"Whatever kinds of projects they do with that program, we're going to be able to use for our green school status," she said.
Other aspects of the school's application include re-using magazines and newspapers, recycling ink cartridge and cell phones and a visitation from a Cranbrook Institute of Science representative.
The school even adopted a sea turtle, named "Bimini," as part of a program to help endangered species. Carson said money was deposited in six different cans representing six different species. The one with the most money was the one that was adopted.
Future projects that are under development include plastic bottle recycling and others that could help produce energy savings.
"We're off to a good start, but there is so much more we can do," she said. "We have the highest status, but we need to maintain it."
The plan is to not only keep the high school going with its status, but to have other schools in the district follow the practices and apply for the status, said Carson, so that all students recognize the importance of being green.
"We encourage (students) to carry the spirit of recycling and energy conservation into their own homes and their futures," she said. "It's definitely something that has to be done."
Carter Middle School in Warren was named the top school in Macomb County for this year's program.