IPSWICH — Ipswich Middle-High School has received federal honors for its environmental and sustainability initiatives.

The school is one of two in the state and 35 in the country to be named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School this year. 

To be selected for the award, schools must show how they are reducing their environmental impact and utility costs, improving health and wellness among students and staff, and ensuring effective sustainability education.  

Ipswich Superintendent Brian Blake said the school's Green Ribbon effort was student driven. Ipswich High seniors Eva Capobianco and Joanna Mullen completed and submitted the application to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. DESE nominates schools and school districts for the federal award.

Capobianco and Mullen have been invited to Washington, D.C., in September to receive the award.  

"We’re very proud of their work," Blake said. "Sustainability has become a significant focus for our students and the recognition of the students and their work is greatly appreciated."

The application details all of the school's sustainability efforts, from the wind turbine 3 miles away that the school partly owns to the outdoor gardens that are hand-watered with rainwater collected in rain barrels. The school grows vegetables in raised garden beds outside that are used for school meals. Extra produce is donated to a food pantry. 

Ipswich High School Principal Jonathan Mitchell said the school has also stopped providing plastic straws in the cafeteria, where students also introduced a “very innovative recycling and composting program," he said. Students worked with Ipswich Sustainable Education to convert all plates used in the cafeteria to compostable ones. There are single-stream recycling bins in every classroom, and students are only allowed to bring in beverages in reusable cups or bottles. 

"There are four water bottle filling stations in the school building which also makes it easy for students to bring their own water bottles," the application reads. "As of September 20th, 2018, there have been 130,418 plastic water bottles avoided by using these stations."

There's also Generation Growers, an Ipswich Middle School Green Team initiative that connects students with local gardeners of all ages, who work together on a community garden. 

Mitchell explained that students “can control what is happening around the school and community at large. These are real-world problems that these kids have been empowered to solve in our community in their own way.”

The Green Ribbon School recognition was conceived in 2011, and Massachusetts first nominated schools and school districts for the award in 2013. 

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