The Montgomery County school board Tuesday night voted unanimously to adopt an “aggressive” sustainability policy.

MCPS is joining the county in its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in five years and 100% by 2035 compared to 2005 levels, according to the policy. 

The board tentatively adopted the policy in January, Bethesda Beat previously reported. The initial version of the policy was distributed for public comment from January through April.

The board’s Policy Management Committee responded to 106 public comments from students, parents, staff and community members to create the revised policy.

Comments included general support for increasing renewable energy and climate change education, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There were also recommendations to reduce food waste and add compost bins, among others. 

The updated policy includes three major areas of revision, according to board member Rebecca Smondrowski. The first changed the policy’s name, replacing “energy conservation” with “sustainability” to more accurately reflect the board’s broader goals.

Another update to the policy includes guidelines for an environmental literacy program as set forth by the Maryland code of regulations and the Montgomery County climate action plan, Smondrowski said. 

The updated policy also outlines initiatives to support and increase the number of green schools in Maryland, Smondrowski said during Tuesday night’s board meeting. 

MCPS facilities management director Seth Adams called the plan “aggressive” and said the reduction in greenhouse gasses involves “everything we do.”

“We think, truly, if this becomes part of our norm, then we can achieve this and we can start to set the environmental standards that are necessary to leave this place a better place for our current students and those students that follow behind,” Adams said.

The policy reaffirms the board’s commitment to sustainability practices and establishes a framework for following them in Montgomery County Public Schools. 

Language in the updated policy is also more inclusive, with one revision clarifyingthat the board will seek active participation from local school communities, in addition to federal, state and local partners. 

While the original policy suggests decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by adjusting energy and transportation practices, the updated version also calls on the board to consider food services as an area for waste reduction. This would work to eliminate food waste. 

The updated policy also recommends providing opportunities for students and staff to learn environmentally sustainable practices and explore related career paths. 

Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland who is studying journalism and Spanish, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.