By Bill Parry
A Jackson Heights elementary school will be flying a new flag from now on.
Students at PS 69, at 77th Street and 37th Avenue, received the Green Flag Award last week, a national honor given to schools that demonstrate exceptional leadership in sustainability. The honor was given through Eco-Schools USA, a K-12 school sustainability program of the National Wildlife Federation, the nation’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization.
Pallavi Shastri, a substance abuse prevention and intervention specialist counselor who runs The Green Team sustainability program at the school, was singled out for recognition.
“Pallavi Shastri has worked tirelessly to educate PS 69’s students to care deeply about protecting the planet,” said Emily Fano, NYC Eco-Schools senior manager. “With the support of Principal Martha Vazquez, Shastri has used the Eco-Schools program framework to nurture a team of students whose members can speak eloquently about a range of environmental issues, from global warming to the dangers of plastic pollution in our oceans.”
PS 69 is the 11th public school in the city to be awarded a Green Flag, which comes with a $5,000 grant to help fund the program. Students performed school-wide energy audits and then slashed the school’s electricity consumption by ensuring that electronic devices and lights were turned off when not being used. Their efforts resulted in a savings of 94,771 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, the equivalent of preventing the release of 150,000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere.
Other projects included salvaging 100 pounds of broken crayons, using less food and turning 4,000 toilet paper rolls into artwork. They also repurposed 300 plastic baby-wipe tubs into Mother’s Day planters.
“I’ve dedicated the past 14 years of my professional and personal life towards numerous projects centered around the environment and developing The Green Team, a group of students committed to the betterment of the world through daily efforts, mindful choices and lifestyle changes,” Shastri said June 23. “Our Earth is beautiful beyond measure and every effort towards preserving her and all her creatures is our collective responsibility.”
The students also diverted 10,000 pounds of waste from landfills and rescued 5,000 pounds of glue sticks, paint binders, paper, arts and craft supplies, and books and donating them to homeless shelters, daycares and needy students in the school and community.
“Ms. Shastri has impacted us extremely, and taught us to grow up to be great people in the future,” said graduating fifth-grader Alexandra Lomboy, a three-year member of The Green Team “She has influenced us to give up single-use plastic products, to go outside and compost, and find ways to conserve energy. We have been around classrooms giving lessons to kids. We have also spread so much awareness that in the future our world will be a much better place.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr