Kelly Thompson, Associate Manager, Sustainability

This past weekend our sustainability coordinator, Kyle Hyman, and I participated in the first Green Apple Day of Service. The event, hosted by the Center for Green Schools (which was established by the U.S. Green Building Council), brings people and organizations from across the globe together to better local schools.

photo 3-resized-600With the goal of providing a healthier, more sustainable building for children to learn and grow, Kyle and I gathered, along with almost 60 other volunteers, at the Pepper Drive School in Santee, California. For our project, Balfour Beatty Construction partnered with the San Diego Green Building Council to plan the upgrades, then lead the groups on the renovation.

Tasks included everything from building garden planter boxes to painting to installing a new rust-free fence for the school. Our particular team was tasked with digging holes to plant oak trees and then installing a wall around them so the kids could sit in the shade. Overall it was hard work but very rewarding to see how thankful the community and staff at the school were with what we were able to accomplish.

That’s the great thing about being green – its benefits take so many different forms. Someone might ask, “How does building a planter box and planting trees at a school help with sustainability?” Let me review the benefits:

  • Educates on how to preserve the environment. Watching seeds sprout into plants teaches the cycle of life to kids at the school. Also, by working with the staff on greening their building, teachers in turn can bring sustainability into their classrooms to talk about what was done and the impact it makes.
  • Quality of life. In addition to the fact that trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each a year, they also provide shade. In a place like Santee, where warm-season temperatures reach over 100 degrees, every little bit of shade helps. Plus, if fruits and vegetables are planted, the kids have an opportunity to eat right from the garden. The students may or may not have access to gardens or fresh produce at home, so it could also improve their diet.
  • It’s important to note is that a garden teaches children responsibility. The school is tasked with planting and taking care of the garden so it thrives throughout the years.


Did I convince you to volunteer next year? Great! Visit to see what will be taking place in your area or register your own project. They give some great examples on their website of what you can lead, such as fixing playgrounds, improving indoor environmental quality with a healthy air checklist, talking to the parents about sustainability in the community, or even teaching kids about green nutrition. I will definitely be participating in the Green Apple Day of Service next year and hope you do, too!

Did you volunteer for the Green Apple Day of Service this year? If so, what project did you work on?

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