Hume-Fogg students join Mayor Barry's sustainability plan with Livable Schools initiative

[youtube] While most high school students use their lunch time as a chance to relax and chat with friends, nine high school seniors at Hume-Fogg Magnet High School meet in the library to strategize a more sustainable school and eventually a more sustainable Nashville.

These students are part of the Livable Schools initiative, a companion program of Livable Nashville, Mayor Barry’s sustainability plan for the city of Nashville. They have aligned their program to mirror the Mayor’s plan for the city. Students lead different committees with specific sustainability goals: mobility, waste reduction and recycling, natural resources, green buildings and climate and energy. The students are the real agents of change, and they are starting from the ground up and talking to their peers face-to-face about the future of Nashville.

These students aren’t just involved in the Livable Schools initiative – they created this organization after taking a school trip to the Southern Environmental Law Center. One of the group founders, student Alex Hines, remembers asking himself why students aren’t doing anything to help impact change and instead of letting it be a passing thought - he did something about it.

“I thought, without schools this initiative is incomplete—schools would help fill the gaps,” Hines said. “I also realized there was an absence of environmental education in high schools, so that is when we came up with the outreach part of our plan to using social media and other mediums to influence actual curriculum in schools across the district.”

With the guidance of their librarian, Amanda Smithfield, the students reached out to Urban Green Lab, a Metro Schools community partner that teaches communities how to live sustainable, healthy lives, to help the club make a plan of action.

“Hume-Fogg has really stepped up to the plate to really lead as an institution on that program,” Todd Lawrence, the executive director of the Urban Green Lab, said. “Our job is to move the program forward, keep it organized and make connections with important stakeholders in the community.”

One of the group’s goals, aside from creating their own school initiatives, is to visit other MNPS high schools and encourage students in the district to start their own programs. In the future, they plan to develop a steering committee with other schools so that everyone can be involved in creating a sustainable plan that can be duplicated.

Hume-Fogg students are taking a big plan that can be hard to comprehend and showing their fellow students how they can make a small, personal change that could affect Nashville for years to come — a great example of a collective action achieved at a local level. They are organized, passionate and self-motivated, and ready to use that energy to encourage others and find solutions.


The Hume-Fogg program is also part of a wider effort across the district from the MNPS Facility and Maintenance Department to encourage schools to lower their energy bills. Each month, Central Office provides principals with their power costs for the month and their improvements from the month before. Weekly tips are provided to principals about sustainable best practices for energy conservation. Work continues to expand this project and updates will be shared throughout the spring.

Both Smithfield and the Urban Green Lab representatives are important to the initiatives’ growth but give all the credit to the students and are in awe of their excitement and interest in the project.

“We can’t wait to see what this group of kids can do,” Lawrence said.

And neither can the rest of MNPS and the city of Nashville.