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Brunn family: Being green is a form of habit
Christopher Brunn, a teacher at Woodward Elementary School, is flanked by sons Andrew, 13, and Jackson, 10, with two of the schools recycling bins. Andrew was an environmental steward at the school while in sixth grade. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Andrew and Jackson Brunn will tell you, “it’s pretty easy being green. It’s habit forming.”

At home, they know what to do to conserve water and energy. They know where to put empty plastic bottles, for example. And they know better than to leave water running while doing day-to-day activities such as taking a shower or brushing their teeth.

These are some of the environmentally friendly habits that they learn at Woodward Elementary School which they put into practice at home, and vice versa. Manteca Unified School District has programs that consistently educate students like the Brunn brothers how to be responsible stewards of the environment for future generations. In fact, eighth grader Andrew was an environmental steward at his school while he was in sixth grade.

Below are some of the ways that the siblings and their parents, Chris and Victoria Brunn, are practicing green stewardship in the domestic front:

•Recycling – they separate bottles and cans, cardboard and other items from the waste bin.

•For a cleaner environment – use of Styrofoam products, which are non-biodegradable, for everyday use is firmly eschewed.

•Water conservation – no running water while brushing teeth and no extended showers.

•Energy conservation – everyone including the kids unplug devices as soon as charging is done; even the toaster is unplugged after each use. “Energy conservation is a critical topic in our home,” Victorian Brunn said. Their home has a programmable thermostat that allows for heating and cooling only in extreme temperatures. When the family goes on vacation, the hot water heater is turned down to vacation mode and the thermostat is turned off during that period.

•Clothing – any clothes outgrown by the boys are “upcycled” by passing them on to friends or donating them to Goodwill.

•Grocery shopping – they buy organically grown vegetables and fruit. They purchase large consumable products at Costco to reduce the amount of packaging that comes into their home. “When possible, we purchase products that are eco-friendly like the product ECOS for detergent – also available Costco. We purchase locally made products whenever possible in order to keep local vendors in business,” Victoria said.

While that may sound like the Brunn family is already applying a lot of green practices at home to protect the environment, Victoria said, “Like most families, this is an evolutionary process for us.” They would like to take all that into an even higher environmental-protection level.

“Our next step would be to create a garden at home for fresh vegetables, a hybrid or electric vehicle, and lastly, solar power for our electric usage – although our bill generally for electricity for a two-story home runs $90 to $130,” she said.

All of the above conservation efforts collectively involve the entire family.

“Our children make wise choices in reducing waste,” said Victoria Brunn, who happens to be the coordinator of Manteca Unified’s Sustainability and Energy Education as well as co-chairperson of the annual Planet Party Day for sixth graders held in conjunction with the worldwide celebration of Earth Day which is aimed at public awareness to protect the environment for posterity. Her husband, Chris, has been a teacher for 20 years, 15 of which are with Manteca Unified and currently teaches junior high at Woodward School.

When asked to compare environmental practices from, say, a decade ago to the present time, Victoria Brunn offers an interesting observation.

“I think people today are more familiar with the word environment; however, I believe our ancestors were better conservationists. Our grandparents were frugal and conscious much more so than we are today. I think we do make an effort to make wise choices but I do feel our children will be more inherent. Are we doing enough? I am not sure we will ever be able to do enough. What we can do is do the best we can in making wise decisions,” she said.

209 staff reporter