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Portsmouth Middle Schoolers Craft Paths To Local Sustainability By 2030

Annie Ropeik
Portsmouth Middle School student Ella DiMeco shows off her model of a "bio-hotel," which she says would have economic and environmental benefits.

Middle schoolers in Portsmouth on Wednesday showcased their ideas to make their city more sustainable – and more prepared for climate change – within the next decade.

The eighth graders based their projects on the United Nations' sustainable development goals – to tackle climate change, inequality, public health issues and more.

The students shrank these global issues down to a local scale, and researched attainable solutions. Their 3-D models of their ideas filled a school hallway Wednesday.

Ella DiMeco looked into sustainable tourism. She built a miniature version of what she called a bio-hotel, topped with gardens and solar panels.

"A few of the things it does for the environment are it recycles rainwater for laundry use, it's completely solar powered and it composts, and it also has rooftop and outdoor gardens that can grow food for the hotel,” DiMeco said, holding up her model.

Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR
Other students' sustainability ideas focused on renewable energy and sea level rise.

Beyond that, she said her project was about creating jobs and bringing new business to the city's already important tourism industry.

Her classmate Su Ha focused on reducing water use, specifically at Portsmouth restaurants.

"I said restaurants should fix their faucets if they're leaky, install low-flush toilets, low-flow sinks and stuff,” Ha said. “And I said they would get a rebate if they install all these in the next two years."

Other students looked more directly at climate change – modeling wind turbines, sea walls and other ideas. They said they hope local leaders and policy-makers will start making these kinds of changes soon.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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