Issue of October 8, 2017
Mt. Province

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Baguio school’s eco–friendly culture vies for nat’l award
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

GULAYAN SA PAARALAN -- Pinsao National High School students with their teachers harvest different kinds of vegetables such as lettuce, pechay, sweet peas etc. in their vertical and eco-friendly garden. PNHS will represent the Cordillera Administrative Region in the national competition of eco-friendly schools. -- Rj Cayabyab

The spirit of community, creativity, and concern for the environment’s welfare has made one of the high schools in Baguio City a contender for the most sustainable and eco-friendly school in its category nationwide.

But winning in this year’s National Search for Sustainable and Eco-friendly Schools-high school category, to be announced in November, may just be an icing on the cake for the Pinsao National High School (PNHS) community, whose constituents deem cleanliness and ecologically sound practices as a norm, and for whom every recyclable scrap has its uses. 

Located at the city’s Lucban district, particularly at Pinsao Surong, Pinsao Pilot Project, the PNHS is home to a campus bedecked with gardens planted with 80 percent vegetables and fruits and built on salvaged materials from garbage – from plots, plant structures, and containers.

A tour of the school premises with Technology and Livelihood Education teacher Angeline Marcelle P. Zarate, who also chairs the school’s landscaping and gardening committee, would show massive eco brick structures, also award-winning, which are made of recycled soft drink bottles reinforced by shredded plastic junk food packages, made by the students themselves. Vegetable and other plant containers range from old shoes, maong jeans, plastic bottles, juice Tetra packs, basketball balls, electric fan wires, old tires, to other old items that could hold soil and support plant growth.

Vertical and hanging gardens are found in concrete walls and in spots where there are no flat lands.

Students have also made and are maintaining a structure for their drainage system out of plastic bottles, under the guidance of Zarate, who was previously involved in agricultural works and technologies. Their irrigation comes from a natural source, a spring located at the upper area of the school that trickles down through a mound of land intentionally planted with grasses that help against erosion.

Classrooms of all grade levels have its own eco-friendly corner, created by students applying the 5Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, and recover concepts.

Zarate said they started with the eco-friendly movement in 2011, when they realized that the school was generating an average of 15 sacks of garbage a day. This became a problem because the barangay started complaining about the bulk collected from the school, one of the biggest garbage generators in the area, and most of which are plastics like food containers and bottles.

“That was the time we thought we had to do something. From then, we have been able to reduce our garbage to just two sacks,” Zarate said.

She said all class levels have “my home, my school,” risk reduction and management, and homeroom guidance program subjects where students are taught on the concepts and proper ways of caring for their school as they do in their own homes – from respect to cleanliness, resourcefulness, and application of environment-friendly crafts.

The school developed its own material recovery facilities where garbage items are properly classified and segregated as biodegradable and non-biodegradable. They also built vermiculture facilities to produce organic fertilizers they use in the gardens. No pesticide or artificial chemicals are used inside the campus.

Storage bins for plastic materials were custom-made to look like big spheres, placed in strategic areas to encourage students to collect their trash and avoid littering.

Through coordination, community members through the barangay council, and the school’s association of parents and teachers later got involved and supported the school effort as residents started bringing over to the school things that can be recycled and used in the gulayan gardens, therefore also helping reduce the waste volume from the households. With many of them managing ukay-ukay businesses, some residents donate clothes and bottles that are used as plant containers. Barangay officials, parents, and some organizations regularly come to help their children plant and enhance their campus, and they also adopted portions as their gulayan garden.

“It creates a multiplier effect. Our students develop the culture of cleanliness and sustainable environment practices in school that it becomes a natural thing for them to do, and propagate the same in their homes and in the community in general,” Zarate said.

Crops harvested from the gardens are sold in the barangays and the proceeds are used to support the school’s supplemental feeding program to improve its students’ nutrition status. In fact, the PNHS was able to reduce the number of severely wasted school children from more than 30 in 2015 to this year’s five cases, which according to school nurse Ray-ann T. Bokidol, are transferees, but whose condition is already being addressed.

The Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools search is organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and partner agencies. With PNHS is the Baguio Central School which will also represent the Cordillera in the elementary level category.

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