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UNO Charter School Network

The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter School Network is a network of schools on Chicago’s southwest side. UNO is committed to addressing sustainability issues and has done much to facilitate environmentally friendly awareness and community action in the surrounding neighborhoods.

One of UNO Charter School Network’s new schools, Officer Donald Marquez School, is a LEED-certified school building, featuring a rooftop garden, recycled building materials, natural lighting, and plans of upgrading the school’s food service to being organic. Each floor of the school has an earth-related theme with maps, murals, and posters to remind students about the natural world in which they live.

Another school within the network, Bartolome de Las Casas, focuses its green efforts on gardening and organic food in the school system. Last year, the school built raised beds in the small school yard where students raised organic vegetables, native plants, grasses, and wildflowers in addition to vegetables which were organically raised (Las Casas received a grant last year for seeds and mulch). The yard is also used for plant-based science projects and experiments. A compost bin was recently started, as well. Students at Bartomole help operate a vegetable buying club for parents – the vegetables come from a local farm that students visit each year in the fall and spring, giving students a chance to understand food production and sustainable agriculture.

Bartolome de Las Casas incorporates eco-friendly practices in other ways as well. For instance, the art class incorporates recycled materials and earth themes wherever possible. The network’s schools expose students to environmental education opportunities by partnering with local organizations such as the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Chicago Department of Environment, Mighty Acorns / Cook County Forest Preserve, Friends of the Chicago River, Shed Aquarium, Peggy Notebaert Nature Center, and The Field Museum.