Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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School district sustainability coordinators provide hope, education

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Daily file photo by Jorge Melendez
Evanston Township High School junior Jexa Edinberg said having a sustainability coordinator gives them hope that someone cares about the future of the world.

Evanston Township High School junior Jexa Edinberg said learning about climate change made them feel “hopeless” in fourth grade.

“I was like – ‘Oh my god, the world is going to die,’” Edinberg said. “I didn’t feel like there was anyone really doing much about that. Now I’m more involved in the action and it’s a lot better.”

Edinberg is a member of E-Town Sunrise, a student-led climate activism group that helped create Evanston Township High School District 202’s new sustainability policy in February. The policy outlines the district’s goals to improve water efficiency, reduce food waste, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and more.

Nicknamed the “Green New Deal for ETHS,” the policy was a student-driven effort, said John Crawford, District 202’s director of operations and sustainability. Crawford said his role was established in 2022 due to student demands.

“It’s exciting that students are a huge part of the process,” he said. “They’re not just along for the ride.”

Students are included in a committee that is creating a sustainability plan that aligns with the district’s sustainability policy, Crawford said.

Edinberg said they appreciate Crawford as a point person for environmental questions. They said districts with sustainability coordinators are doing more than just “performative” activism when it comes to the climate crisis.

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board of Education “honorably dismissed” its sustainability coordinator — along with 11 other staff members — in March due to budget cuts. The dismissal came two years after the district’s sustainability coordinator position was created.

At the same meeting, District 65 Superintendent Angel Turner said the sustainability coordinator position would be “reimagined” under the science and sustainability education coordinator title.

The district doesn’t have any more updates on the position, Melissa Messinger, the district’s chief communications officer, said in a statement to The Daily. 

“We are reimagining several positions within our organization to create greater efficiency, productivity and alignment to our strategic priorities,” she wrote.

The science and sustainability education coordinator will help adjust the district’s science curriculum with the Next Generation Science Standards, according to a Sunday LinkedIn job posting from the district.

The standards’ framework includes explaining the process of science inquiry, finding connections between disciplines and explaining scientific concepts to students.

The new coordinator is also responsible for spearheading cross-department collaboration to improve District 65 science and sustainability education programs.

The previous role focused heavily on infrastructure sustainability, including resource conservation and creating a climate roadmap for the district.

Edinberg said they don’t recall receiving much climate change education in elementary and middle school. They said they would’ve liked to have someone to talk to about environmental issues because it would have given them more hope.

“Having (a sustainability coordinator) in middle and elementary school would help to make students more confident that they had a future that somebody was fighting for,” Edinberg said.

District 65 has composting initiatives in all lunchrooms and has planted trees to help combat the city’s tree shortage. In 2023, Evanston lost trees at a rate of 200 per year, according to a leader of Natural Habitat Evanston. Between 2018 and early 2023, the district planted 90 trees.

Some middle schools also have a Climate Club, which supports district initiatives like gardening, recycling and composting.

District 202 has three garden spaces used to grow food for school lunches. ETHS also has courses like Urban Agriculture held in the school’s greenhouse.

Crawford said he is the “direct conduit” for sustainability ideas between school community members and the greater Evanston community. He said when someone has an idea, he communicates with the proper people to determine if it is feasible to implement.

Karen Taira, board president of the Evanston Environmental Association, said it’s important to make sure sustainability efforts and education across the city are “equitable.”

For schools, sustainability coordinators ensure people are aware of environmental justice in urban areas and have sustainable infrastructure to learn in, Taira said.

Edinberg said focusing on the “easy solutions,” like composting and curbing food waste, helps.

“When you add on all these little things, it becomes very big, especially when amplified across a whole school district,” Edinberg said.

Email: [email protected] 

X: @anavi_52

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