#FindYourLab with Lisa Young

Urban Green Lab knows a little change goes a long way when it comes to living sustainably. To help Nashville make that little change, we’re helping everyone in the community find their lab.

“When one of my students asked for a compost bin for Christmas, I knew I was making a lasting impact!”

Lisa Young
Gifted and talented teacher
Metro nashville public schools

Lisa, where is your lab?

I’ve used my classroom and my school as an opportunity to educate students and faculty about the importance of sustainability. We’ve created a “Green Team” of motivated students who help with sustainable projects all over our school.

Our cafeteria is a place where students learn about the importance of composting food waste and sharing uneaten food with other students and hungry people in our community through a partnership with The Society of St. Andrew. My classroom is a place to study the Sustainable Classrooms Curriculum where we learn about water waste, energy resources, and what students’ sustainable utopia would look like. I hope my students’ homes are places where they share what they’ve learned and discuss the importance of sustainable practices and what every person can do to make our world a better place.

What has been your biggest challenge or question?

Lisa and her students conduct cafeteria food waste audits, 2019

My biggest challenge has been funding our compost initiative. It seems if it is cheaper to throw food in the trash, that will be the first choice. Our school community has to want to make changes, and I’m not sure everyone realizes the negative impact on our environment when food ends up in the landfill. We’ve been fortunate to have been given a grant from Kroger last year, and we survived on small donations this year, but we need money to sustain our efforts long-term. 

How did you get interested in sustainable living?

I attended the Sustainable Classrooms Curriculum training in 2018, and that’s when I realized that I could use my position to really make a difference in my school and my community. The more time I spend supporting these efforts, the more people are impacted and educated about how to save our planet. It starts with a small ripple. 

What keeps you motivated to make sustainable changes?

My biggest motivation is when a student tells me they made changes at home. When one of my students asked for a compost bin for Christmas, I knew I was making a lasting impact! During this quarantine, I’ve had students email me to ask how to continue designing their sustainable utopia at home. That lets me know that what I’m doing matters.

What is your sustainable vision for the city of Nashville?

My vision is that Metro Schools will see the lasting impact of composting food waste and make it a part of every school’s lunchtime routine. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m definitely the proudest of winning the Sustainable Teacher Award for Project Support from Urban Green Lab in 2019. Being recognized for all of the hard work I had done meant the world to me.

Name a sustainability champion you look up to.

Diana Andrew is my sustainability hero. I’ve learned so much from her, and she has supported every single effort that I’ve put into motion. 

What advice do you have for others to make sustainable changes?

Start with something simple. Instead of throwing your food scraps in the trash can, create a small area outside for composting. Instead of buying that single-use plastic water bottle, invest in a reusable one.

You may be surprised how making one small change motivates you to make another and another.

Lisa Young

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