Students at work in a greenhouse at Tlalpan's sustainable school. Students at work in a greenhouse at Tlalpan's sustainable school.

CDMX school awarded for sustainability

Tlalpan secondary school collects rainwater, grows produce, produces electricity

A  secondary school in the Mexico City borough of Tlalpan is pioneering the sustainable school model in Mexico.

Equipped with a rainwater collection system, greenhouses, solar panels and a biodigester, Technical Secondary School No. 120 has earned the recognition of the governments of the United Arab Emirates and its Zayed Future Energy Prize, and of Mexico, which granted the school the Amanda Rimoch National Prize for Environmental Education.

The school’s study plan has incorporated environmentally-oriented projects since 2013, which carry on after the youths graduate.

Not only that, but the school’s projects extend into the local neighborhood and other schools in the city, in an effort to raise awareness, said teacher Israel Contreras Franco.

Third-year student Emanuel is one of the most involved with and committed to the school’s projects, which he demonstrated and explained to the newspaper Milenio.

He remarked that he could still “breathe easily but it’s starting to be the same as in the rest of the city. All the pollution affects us. I am still very young, but I can see the condition the planet is already in; I can’t imagine what it will be like when I grow up . . . I want a better future for future generations.”

The secondary school’s rainwater collection system has been equipped with three different filtration systems, allowing the water to be used for cleaning and, most importantly, watering the plants in the school’s two greenhouses.

In one of those, students and faculty members grow fruits and leafy vegetables while the other is used to cultivate mushrooms. Part of this school year’s project entails inviting parents to the school so their children can teach them how to grow mushrooms themselves.

The produce grown is used in the school’s food preparation and preservation workshop, where the students learn how to prepare their own meals.

To make use of organic waste the school has installed a biodigester, an oxygen-free space in which bacteria break down or “digest” organic material. The process produces methane, which is then captured and used for many different purposes.

“It works sort of like an artificial cow’s stomach,” explained Emanuel.

The school is also equipped with a 44-panel solar array, which supplies the facility with 70% of its electricity needs. The remaining 30% is provided by the power grid.

The recognition obtained by the school has translated into some encouraging cash prizes, and some of the greenhouse produce is also being sold.

The extra income has been invested in the school and the project, but what keeps it all going “is a matter of civic responsibility,” said Contreras.

The school recently started collaborating with the non-governmental organization Red Latinoamericana por la Educación, or Reduca, through which its project will be replicated in schools throughout the region.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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