San Francisco Beautiful is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for Starr King Green Schoolyard 2.0, a project of San Francisco Unified School District. Starr King Elementary School received a 2015 Watershed Stewardship Grant of $93,000 to fund storm water management improvements. Nik Kaestner, Director of Sustainability at San Francisco Unified School District is leading the project. In honor of Earth Month we asked Nik to tell us about his job and share some strategies for a greener lifestyle.
What is the role of Director of Sustainability and how did you become involved in this work?
My job is to reduce utility use, waste, and car trips to school. I used to be a high school science teacher but my appreciation for the environment led me to want to be more active protecting it. At the school district, I can work to promote sustainability in an educational setting, the best of both worlds!
How long have you been in San Francisco and what is unique about the city’s approach to sustainability?
I grew up in Silicon Valley but moved up to the City in 2006 after marrying my wife, an urban planner and city lover. I too fell in love with the energy and vitality that characterizes SF. Thankfully for me, it is also a city that has some of the most progressive environmental policies in the country. This means I have the wind at my back as I seek to move the sustainability needle at the school district. In fact, my position is sponsored by SF Environment and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
What is rewarding about working with kids?
I used to work as a YMCA camp counselor every summer, taking kids into the Sierras to experience California at its natural best. I always loved the fresh ideas and engaging curiosity they brought with them. In my current work, students are a constant reminder of why it’s important to promote a healthy environment. My actions directly benefit the world they will inherit.
Earlier this school year I talked to the kids at Glen Park, my son’s school, about protecting the Earth and gave them tips for reducing waste. Since then, I am no longer Lucas’s dad but Mr. Green. When I walk down the halls, I am a celebrity. We need more environmental celebrities, don’t we?
Can you give us 3 of your favorite tips for being more green?
Don’t sweat the small stuff, it barely makes a difference in your environmental footprint.
Drive less: Walk, bike, take Muni or BART, whatever floats your boat. Driving is the worst thing we do to the environment.
Buy less stuff: Try to find joy in not spending money on things, but experiences. Instead, go to a movie, take a hike, eat a fancy meal. You get the picture.
Unplug: We have all these devices that supposedly make our lives better or more convenient. But they also make us lazier, fatter, less interesting. Put the phone down and talk to someone. Turn off the TV and go outside. Pretend you’re an Italian and you want nothing more than to hang out in the piazza talking to friends over a cup of coffee.