Meghan Bernard Receives a 2023 Leader in Sustainability Fellowship

Meghan Bernard, the District's Sustainability Manager, has been chosen by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as one of only six individuals nationally to receive a Leader in Sustainability Fellowship for the coming year.

"I am honored to be a USGBC Leader in Sustainability Fellow,” Meghan shares. “The fellowship provides the opportunity to collaborate with other school sustainability leaders around the country, receive mentoring for my professional development, and delve deeper into the sustainability field."

As the District's Sustainability Manager, Meghan is part of the Operations Department and serves as the District’s LiveGreen program lead. She has a long list of accomplishments but is quick to recognize and credit the collaboration with her colleagues and the power of teamwork. Some examples of Meghan's significant contributions to School District 197 include:

  • Running and overseeing the LiveGreen program at all District schools.
  • Installing and maintaining sustainable gardens at District schools.
  • Coordinating Spring School Cleanups, engaging students in caring for their outdoor space.
  • Implementing material management processes to reuse equipment and recycle materials. 
  • Tracking District energy and water usage. 
  • Converting roughly 10 acres of turf to native prairie.

Meghan on site at the River to River Greenway Regional Trail adjacent to Two Rivers Campus.

District Operations Manager Mark Fortman highlights working with a sustainability manager like Meghan, "Having Meghan on the Operations team ensures that the decisions we make around energy use, water use, energy production, waste stream management, and greenhouse gas reduction always incorporate sustainable environmentally conscious thought."

Meghan credits her team and District Operations Director Mark Fortman for their work and their strong commitment to running their buildings as efficiently as possible to maximize education dollars. "Our District is in the top 5% of school districts in the County for energy efficiency; we use less than half the amount of energy than the national average,” Meghan shares. “We’ve achieved this with highly efficient equipment and diligent monitoring. We do little things that have a big impact, like turning our lights down to 40% brightness after hours. We are way ahead of the curve, but we are always looking to do better."

"What I enjoy most about my work is seeing students experience the positive impact their actions can have on the environment, it gives me hope”.

Meghan's Impact on Waste Reduction and Future Goals in District 197

Meghan's longtime passion for waste drove her into the sustainability field of work and continues to drive the tremendous changes she is guiding in the District. 

Fifty percent of a school's waste comes from the cafeteria, so reducing food and packaging waste and switching to reusables, like trays and utensils, is an important sustainability goal for our District. Meghan is very proud of the District's efforts to reduce cafeteria waste. "Our schools use disposable trays and utensils, and although they are compostable, they are still wasteful. This year, with the help of the Child Nutrition department, as well as Dakota County and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, we have put in a dishwasher and now have reusable trays and utensils at Pilot Knob." 

Other projects and initiatives this school year include implementing reusable breakfast totes/boats and lunch plates, eliminating single-use plastics in the cafeteria, and expanding the LiveGreen program to more students during the school day. 

According to Meghan, the future goals of the district include:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the transition from diesel to propane buses.
  • Maximizing solar generation through on and off-site solar.
  • Conserving water through smart irrigation practices.
  • Preventing waste by implementing dishwashers, utensils, and trays when possible.
  • Continuing to engage students in environmental opportunities and experiences. 

We are so proud of Meghan receiving the Leader in Sustainability Fellowship.  Her work leading our LiveGreen program has been key to our district achieving national recognition."  - Operations Director Mark Fortman

Many of the District's LiveGreen initiatives are so much more than just so-called green projects—they are dynamic collaborations with valuable partners that engage students and invest in the future of our community.

Photo above: Students plant native prairie plants on Two Rivers Campus adjacent to the River to River Greenway Regional Trail—a partnership with Great River Greening, Two Rivers High School, the City of West St. Paul and Dakota County projected to take 2 years and cover roughly 10 acres of turf.