Students, staff and parents at a couple of Royal Oak schools deserve congratulations for their efforts to protect the environment and learn about it in the process

Keller Elementary was named the most environmentally responsible school in Oakland County at the 2011 OakGreen Summit for its successes at reducing fuel consumption, reducing waste and maximizing recycling.

The summit marked a half-way point toward the OakGreen Challenge, issued last year by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to county businesses, residents, schools and local governments. Participants commit to reducing energy use by 10 percent by the end of 2012.

At Keller, Principal John Houghton said lesson plans include an emphasis on environmental stewardship.

Parents of children in any elementary school are likely to have some idea of what their children learn; teaching and learning flow both ways.

But the program at Keller reaches out quite directly to the parents and staff: No idling engines in the school parking lot, for buses as well as parents’ cars. And pack a waste-free lunch on Wednesdays.

The school goes further: It composts food. In third grade, Recycling Rangers sort waste every Thursday, separating plastic, batteries, cardboard and metal from remaining trash.

The school has installed sensors to shut off lights when a classroom is empty and to shut off water if no one is in front of a sink.

Runner-up among the county’s schools was Royal Oak Middle School, where children in grades 6-8 reuse newspapers and magazines for art projects and flipbooks, grow native Michigan flowers, maintain a vegetable garden and donate the produce and study alternative energy, using a solar oven for S’mores.

The county has made it easy for all in the county to enter and accept the challenge. A website ( separate entries for homeowners, business people and school and local government officials. Homeowners, for example, are asked to complete an Energy Star assessment provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, which looks at annual electricity usage, fuel type, area of the home and number of occupants.

The benefits for anyone accepting a challenge to reduce energy consumption are clear enough: a savings in energy costs and a heightened awareness of what’s required of individuals, groups and our nation to reduce energy usage.

It may be even more valuable for the children. We hope programs such as Oakland County’s and Keller’s will set them out on a lifelong path as environmental stewards, ready to show the rest of us how it should be done.

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