LAFAYETTE, La. (IND) – To show students the importance of environmental stewardship, EnvironMental Design will be planting an orchard of pecan trees at John Paul the Great Academy during the school’s Earth Day celebration on Friday.

The tree planting is part of a larger effort to make the school’s campus more ecologically viable. Many of the old buildings on the campus have already been recycled into classrooms, offices and even a chapel. And as the school grows, those effort will also continue to expand.

“What we are trying to do at the campus over there is make it an eco-friendly, sustainable kind of campus,” says Edward Cazayoux, principal architect of EnvironMental Design — the architecture firm directing the project.

Nearly half of the 22 trees being planted for the event were donated by Robert “Bob” Thibodeaux of Bob’s Tree Preservation, with the rest coming from other businesses and individuals in the community.

The campus will also feature a self-sufficient hydroponic greenhouse that comes in a small shipping container, which contains all the material and equipment needed for the greenhouse. The top of the greenhouse opens up with photovoltaic solar cells that collect the energy needed to run the system.

The greenhouse is a prototype and is still being tested, but once it’s fully operational the greenhouse is expected to produce approximately 1,000 heads of lettuce every two weeks, a third of which will be donated to St. Joseph Diner in Lafayette with the remaining produce being sold at local farmers markets.

According to Cazayoux, this green initiative is a long term project that will deliver an invaluable lesson to children, one consisting of long-term planning, thinking, patience and taking care of the Earth. This year, he says, the school collected some 5,000 pounds of pecans from the existing trees on its campus, and this orchard is expected to pay for two or three scholarships annually in the coming years when the trees are old enough to bear nuts.

“The intention is for the produce from the pecans that we would pick and possibly even crack there and sell would provide scholarships for some of the kids there,” says Cazayoux. “It is also important in the education of these children that they know about planting a seed in the ground, nurturing it to maturity and harvesting it to eat or sell.”

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