Photo provided by U.S. Green Building Council Louisiana ChapterÑVolunteers with the Louisiana chapter of the I.S. Green Building Council spent a morning preparing the Arthur Ashe Charter SchoolÕs Edible Schoolyard garden for its fall season.

The deadline for schools to sign up for the Green Schools Challenge, the major local project of the Louisiana chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, is Sept. 12. At the end of the school year, green projects showing the most impact will be given cash prizes and trophies by USGBC Louisiana. For information and to register, visit

The U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference, Greenbuild, will take place in New Orleans this year from Oct. 22-24. In advance of the conference, USGBC Louisiana is sponsoring a series of speakers, including Bob Berkebile, one of the founders of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, on Sept. 29.

In July, the speaker series featured a pair of presentations by Stephen Ritz, a teacher, urban agriculture advocate and founder of the Green Bronx Machine. On July 17, about 35 volunteers worked alongside Ritz, weeding, “sprucing” and preparing the Arthur Ashe Charter School’s Edible Schoolyard garden for its fall season, said Jolie Lemoine, the chapter coordinator for the USGBC Louisiana. In the late afternoon, more than 75 residents gathered at the school for a reception and lecture by Ritz on his project.

Ritz works in a low-income school system, with students suffering from homelessness, criminal delinquency and health issues, among other challenges. He created an urban agriculture program for youth in 2011 to engage his students in growing edible plants to consume and sell while beautifying their neighborhoods through green walls and other installations.

“Food and education is a very important topic in this community,” said Prisca Weems, who attended the lecture. “I’m interested in how children ground themselves with natural processes and how that supports personal development — children taking control of their own environment.”

On July 19, local teachers, officials and youth development advocates gathered at AIA New Orleans at Lee Circle to discuss how to turn the idea of youth urban agriculture into reality. Ritz helped facilitate the discussion, which moved into breakout sessions in which groups created strategies for realizing specific projects.