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4th Annual Oakland Green Gloves Symposium

Green Glove Symposium CertificatesGreen Glove Symposium CertificatesOn Friday, February 1, Oakland Unified School District hosted its 4th annual Green Gloves Symposium to honor the sustainability efforts of custodians and nutrition services workers.

The event featured presentations and panel discussions highlighting the district's efforts to advance more environmentally friendly practices. Students from Oakland High School shared a presentation describing their efforts to study and eliminate litter and details about their student-run recycling program.

Across the district, system-wide changes have altered the composition of the waste stream. Styrofoam trays have been replaced with compostable cardboard at nearly every school while two sites prepare to re-introduce washable/reusable food trays.

Jeffrey Vickers, Garfield ElementaryJeffrey Vickers, Garfield Elementary

"Two sites have installed commercial dishwashers to keep the trays clean," explains Nancy Deming, OUSD's sustainability coordinator. "Nutrition services found boxes of trays tucked away in storage- so this is a 'back to the future' moment for us."

Schools have also started to eliminate "spork packets" in favor of utensil dispensers. The plastic wrap associated with the spork packets led to contamination of compostable wastes and slowed sorting lines in the lunch room. With individual dispensers, students can take only what they need.

The changes in cafeteria purchasing align with broader changes in how the district serves food to children. Jennifer LaBarre, Director of Oakland Unified Nutrition Services, outlined the vision for the elimination of pre-packaged food and a return to scratch-cooking kitchens as well as an expansion of the district's meal program to include breakfast and dinner services at many sites.

Waste Management's Rebecca Parnes Highlights the Features of Cafeteria Waste Reduction SystemsWaste Management's Rebecca Parnes Highlights the Features of Cafeteria Waste Reduction Systems

LaBarre aims to eliminate over 80% of the waste associated with food packaging and distribution.

A panel discussion offered tips for engaging students in the effort and best practices for staff interested in improving waste diversion. Concerns were also surfaced about the changing nature of the work, challenges with new duties and expectations, and issues regarding compensation for efforts that help save the district money.

Schools, custodians and cafeteria staff were honored with framed certificates for their efforts while top schools collected bonus checks split between custodians, principals and student groups.

The symposium concluded with a lunch catered by nutrition services. Durable, reusable utensils, sustainbly harvested food, and fair trade coffee and tea set the table for a delicious meal. One participant noted the joy of entering a school cafeteria that smells like home cooking. Of course, diversion stations were provided to capture recyclables, compostables, and other divertable material.

View the embedded image gallery online at:

OUSD's Green Gloves in the News:

Waste Age - Kid Gloves: Food Waste Composting in Oakland Schools (Jan. 9, 2013)

OaklandLocal – OakTown Gardens: Reducing Waste to 'Green' Lincoln Elementary (Oct. 30, 2012)

Reset San Francisco – Look To Your Neighbor, SF: Cafeteria Composting Helps Oakland Students Go Green (Oct. 12, 2012)

OaklandNorth – Oakland Students Learn Composting in Cafeterias (Sept. 26, 2012)

KGO-TV (ABC7) – Students in East Oakland Earning A’s in Going Green (Sept. 25, 2012) VIDEO

KTVU-TV (FOX2) – Oakland Unified School District’s Green Gloves Program (Sept. 25, 2012) VIDEO

California Schools Magazine – Class Act: Green Gloves – Good for Environment, Bottom Line (Fall 2012)

Oakland Business Reviews – KGO-TV Features OUSD Green Gloves Program (October 2012) (Go to page 11 or read story below)

KQED Radio News Clip (October 8, 2012)

Green Cleaning Techniques and Purchasing for Schools

Green CleaningGreen CleaningIn January 2013, dosage The Alameda County Green Purchasing Roundtable presented guidance for environmentally preferable cleaning proceedures and products for schools.

The presentation included information about certification and standards for cleaning chemicals, decease an overview of janitorial tissue products and implementation tips and strategies.

Green cleaning saves money, discount reduces health risks, and helps shift the general marked for cleaning products as large purchasers make a shift toward environmentally preferable products.

The presentation also includes information about product certification and standards for meeting enviornmental and healt goals.

Download the presentation here:

pdfGreen Cleaning Standards and Strategies3.25 MB

Additional resources for the following topics are available on the Alameda County Green Purchasing Roundtable webpage: 

  • Green Office Supplies
  • Green IT
  • Green Fleets
  • Carpet
  • Rubberized Asphalt

Bag It: Reusable Bag Resources

Please complete our reusable bag outreach survey by clicking here.


Alameda County's Reusable Bag Ordinance goes into effect on January 1, 2013.

The ordinance bans single-use disposable plastic bags at most grocery stores and other food retailers. It also places a 10 cent charge on paper bags which must now meet certain environmental sustainability criteria.

The ordinance is designed to reduce the environmental impacts associated with single-use disposable bags while advancing the use of reusable shopping bags.

Complete details including the text of the ordinance, a FAQ for shoppers, bag specifications, and tools for retailers are available at

Bags can be made from discarded materialsBags can be made from discarded materialsSchool-Community Engagement

Each school in Alameda County's Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project will distribute postcards to family and community members to raise awareness about the ordinance.

Postcards may be distributed as part of weekly packets sent home to families, handed out at school events, or throughout the community as a part of projects designed by teachers and students. The effort is designed to reach over 25,000 households.

Schools are also encouraged to explore ways to make and distribute durable, reusable bags as part of their waste reduction efforts.

Schools might sell bags as a fundraiser or pass out free bags with school logos or student designed sustainability slogans.

To help advance this effort, please refer to the resources below.

Raising Awareness

The following set of videos can help raise awareness about the environmental impacts associated with plastic bags. Use the navigation bar below the video to scroll through the various resources ranging from music videos to mocumentaries to public service announcements. If you have a video that you think should be added to this list, leave a link and description in the comments at the bottom of the page


Making Reusable Bags

The internet is full of tutorials for making reusable bags. Use the navigation bar below the video to scroll through the various resources ranging from "no sew" bags to crocheted bags made from plarn. If you have a video that you think should be added to this list, leave a link and description in the comments at the bottom of the page

Other tutorials:

  • Instructables tutorial for heat-fusing plastic bags with an iron: Click here
  • Girl Scouts tutorial for making a tote bag from a t-shirt: Click here

Additional Resources

  • Roberta Miller's instructions for making a bag from an old t-shirt: Click here
  • Gizmodo article discussing environmental concerns presented by different types of bags: Click here
  • News article (11/26/12) featuring brief discussion of life cycle analysis for paper, plastic and reusable bags: Click here
  • Plastic Bag Recycling Industry guide to identifying plastic bag types: Click here
  • California Department of Public Health guidelines for safe use of reusable bags: Click here
  • Reuse Corner blogger reminds you to bring your bag: Click here

Login or register to share other tools, tips and techniques for promoting reusable bags in the comments below.

Making Bags

On November 27, 2012, teachers and students in the Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project met to learn more about the ordinance and explore ways to make reusable bags using discarded materials. Schools are organizing bag-making campaigns to help support the upcoming Reusable Bag ordinance set to take effect 1/1/2013 in Alameda County.

Thanks to StopWaste's Roberta Miller, ACLC's Patricia Williamson, and Judi McDowell and Darlene Wilhelm for leading Creation Stations. Thanks also to Zocalo Coffeehouse in San Leandro for donating burlap sacks to be converted into reusable shopping bags. 

View the embedded image gallery online at:

2012 Food Scrap Challenge Results

During the 2011-2012 school year, over 500 students from 6 cities signed up for the Food Scrap Challenge, organized by the Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project. Over 90% of the participating students pledged to take actions to help their families reduce the amount of food waste headed to the landfill.

Food scraps and compostable food soiled paper (pizza boxes, cardboard lunch trays, fast food wrappers, etc) account for approximately 30% of all waste that Alameda County buries in the landfill.  Put another way, citizens of Alameda County send nearly 49,000 garbage trucks worth of compostable materials weighing over 340,000 tons to the dump each year.  Food scraps are the single largest category of items sent to the landfill each year.  (Waste Characterization Study)

Fortunately, Alameda County runs the largest food scrap program in the country. By using the green bin at home, families can help turn food scraps into useful compost that helps grow more food, reduces the impact on landfills and helps to reduce green house gas emissions.

Although Alameda County runs the largest food scrap program in the country, students reported varying levels of access to green bins and participation in the program. Across the county, 48% of students reported that their family regularly throws food scraps directly in the garbage while only 32% regularly use the green bin.  Other families use the garbage disposal (8%), place scraps in a compost pile at home (6%) or do something else with the scraps like feed pets, chickens, or worms (6%).

Where do families place their food scraps?

Garbage 48%
Green Bin 32%
Sink Disposal 8%
Compost Pile 6%
Other 6%

Access to green bins plays an important role in a family's ability to participate.  Students residing in single family homes were more than twice as likely to report access to green bins at home compared to students living in apartment buildings (60% vs 25%).  The lack of access at apartment buildings results in 60% of apartment dwelling families throwing food scraps in the garbage.

Countywide, only 51% of students were certain that they had access to a green bin where they live. 19% were certain that they did not have access, while a large number of students (30%) were not sure if they had access or not.

Who has access to green bins where they live?

Dewlling Type (# of responses) Yes No Doesn't know
Single Family Homes (295) 60% 11% 29%
Apartments (94) 26% 37% 37%
Rentals (56) 52% 15% 33%
Other (28) 55% 21% 24%
Duplex (16) 56% 31% 13%
Condo (14) 21% 43% 36%
Countywide (503) 51% 19% 30%

The Food Scrap Challenge encouraged students to help their families take a variety of actions to help reduce the amount of food being sent to the landfill including:

Stopping food waste before it starts by:

  1. Buying only what you need
  2. Paying attention to food expiration dates
  3. Saving your leftovers and eat them the next day
  4. Using food trimmings for soups and broths
  5. Donating excess food

Keeping food scraps out of the landfill by:

  1. Setting up a container in the kitchen to hold food waste until it can be taken to the green bin, home compost system, or worm bin.
  2. Remembering that the curbside green bin can handle all types of raw or cooked vegetables, meats, and food soiled paper. (Basically, if it was once alive, it can go in the green bin)  At the end of meals, scrape plates for diversion to the green bin.
  3. Feeding raw vegetable scraps to home compost systems and worm bins.

Check out the EPA's Food Waste Hierarchy for more best practices in reducing food waste.

Sample Project
As part of the food scrap challenge, students at Logan High School in Union City produced "before and after" studies of their family's use of the green bin at home and reported other actions the family took to reduce food scraps.  To help reduce waste, teacher Michelle Galaria trained the students to use google docs for a paper free assignment.

Students documented a dramatic increase in awareness for the types of materials that should be placed in the green bins and proof of their family's efforts with before and after photos (click through the images below)

Page 1Page 1 Page 2Page 2 Page 3Page 3 Page 4Page 4 Page 5Page 5 Page 6Page 6 Page 7Page 7

EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy

Food Recovery PyramidFood Recovery PyramidThe Environmental Protection Agency provides a wide range of tools to help consumers learn more about reducing the amount of food wasted every year.

According to the EPA, 33 million tons of food waste was sent to landfill in 2010, making food waste the single largest category of landfilled trash. To help identify the most effecitve strategies for reducing food waste, the EPA has created the Food Recovery Hierarchy.

Interestingly, composting is the 2nd to last option (before the landfill) in reducing food waste. We should try to eliminate food waste before it starts and follow the Food Recovery Hierarchy to get the most out of the food we produce.

The Food Recovery Hierarchy:

  1. Source Reduction
  2. Feeding Hungry People
  3. Feeding Animals
  4. Industrial Uses
  5. Composting
  6. Landfill/Incineration

To learn more about the EPA's efforts to help reduce food waste, visit:

Alameda Green Gloves Celebration

Custodial panel discussionCustodial panel discussionOn Friday, March 16, 2012, the Alameda Unified School District hosted its 1st annual "Green Gloves" symposium to celebrate the waste reduction efforts of custodians. Custodians, students, and teachers from schools across the city joined the celebration hosted at Ruby Bridges Elementary School.

The event provided a forum to address problems and share best practices that have emerged during the district's three-year Green Schools Challenge funded by a $142,000, 3-year Altamont Education Advisory Board grant.

After an enthusiastic welcome from superintendent Kristen Vital, 5th grade students from Bay Farm Elementary school kicked off the proceedings with a presentation highlighting the 3 bin sort system in place at schools across the district. Students made a point of personally thanking custodial staff for being partners and leaders in this effort.

Student PresentationStudent PresentationA panel discussion by custodians highlighted best practices and addressed minor concerns in the Green Schools Challenge. Overall, the panel had high praise for the program- especially in its efforts to help make students more aware and responsible for the waste they generate on campus. The group advocated for a "feedback system" that would allow them to recognize teachers and classrooms that effectively sort waste as well as an education card reminding recalcitrant teachers how to encourage proper use of diversion bins in classrooms.

The panel discussed new tools including tandem carts allowing custodians to service two separate classroom waste streams in one trip through the campus. The panel also reminded the group that students and teachers are responsible for placing items in the right classroom bin and custodians are responsible for moving it to the correct dumpster, not sorting individual bags of mixed waste.

Maintenance, Operations and Facilities Coordinator, Kristi Ojigho presented an overview of each school's efforts and results. District-wide, waste diversion improved from 41% to 60% between 2008-2012 (see slideshow below or download here 3.06 Mb ).

Certificates presented by Miss AlamedaCertificates presented by Miss Alameda

Michelle Kuttner, a 1st grade teacher at Bay Farm shared bin labels and other tools that schools are using to educate all users of the campus. The Alameda Green Schools Committee developed color-coded posters showing what can go in each waste stream at school, kindergarten tools for teaching new students how to sort their waste in the cafeteria, and color-coded flow charts for custodial closets to help substitute custodians move materials from classroom bins to the correct dumpsters outside.

The event concluded with a presentation from Miss Alameda highlighting her work as the real-life super-hero "Recycle Woman" and the presentation of certificates and thank you gifts for custodians.

View the embedded image gallery online at:

Kudos to Alameda Unified for organizing an event that reinforced the themes of waste reduction: reused juice pouches served as vases for table top flowers, ceramic coffee mugs were provided in the morning for coffee and water, making this a plastic-bottle free event, and lunch was served on re-purposed, washable pie tins.

Reducing Food Waste during the Holiday Season

Special guest post from Danielle Niernberg, Project Director @ Nourishing the Planet

The holiday season is a time for gifts, decorations, and lots and lots of food. As a result, it's also a time of spectacular amounts of waste. In the United States, we generate an extra 5 million tons of household waste each year between Thanksgiving and New Year's, including three times as much food waste as at other times of the year. When our total food waste adds up to 34 million tons each year, that equals a lot of food. With the holidays now upon us, the Worldwatch Institute offers 10 simple steps we all can take to help make this season less wasteful and more plentiful.

In the United States, it is estimated that we waste about 34 million tons of food annually. 

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption—approximately 1.3 billion tons—is lost or wasted each year. Consumers in developed countries such as the United States are responsible for 222 million tons of this waste, or nearly the same quantity of food as is produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

As Americans prepare for upcoming holiday meals, here are 10 tips to help reduce the amount of food we waste:

Before the meal: Plan your menu and exactly how much food you'll need.

1. Be realistic: The fear of not providing enough to eat often causes hosts to cook too much. Instead, plan out how much food you and your guests will realistically need, and stock up accordingly. The Love Food Hate Waste organization, which focuses on sharing convenient tips for reducing food waste, provides a handy "Perfect portions" planner to calculate meal sizes for parties as well as everyday meals.

2. Plan ahead: Create a shopping list before heading to the farmers' market or grocery store. Sticking to this list will reduce the risk of impulse buys or buying unnecessary quantities, particularly since stores typically use holiday sales to entice buyers into spending more.

During the meal: Control the amount on your plate to reduce the amount in the garbage.

3. Go small: The season of indulgence often promotes plates piled high with more food than can be eaten. Simple tricks of using smaller serving utensils or plates can encourage smaller portions, reducing the amount left on plates. Guests can always take second (or third!) servings if still hungry, and it is much easier (and hygienic) to use leftovers from serving platters for future meals.

4. Encourage self-serve: Allow guests to serve themselves, choosing what, and how much, they would like to eat. This helps to make meals feel more familiar and also reduces the amount of unwanted food left on guests' plates.

After the meal: Make the most out of leftovers.

5. Store leftovers safely: Properly storing our leftovers will preserve them safely for future meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be left out for no more than two hours. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, making them more convenient to grab for a quick meal rather than being passed over and eventually wasted.

6. Compost food scraps: Instead of throwing out the vegetable peels, eggshells, and other food scraps from making your meal, consider composting them. Individual composting systems can be relatively easy and inexpensive, and provide quality inputs for garden soils. In 2010, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to pass legislation encouraging city-wide composting, and similar broader-scale food composting approaches have been spreading since.

7. Create new meals: If composting is not an option for you, check out Love Food Hate Waste's creative recipes to see if your food scraps can be used for new meals. Vegetable scraps and turkey carcasses can be easily boiled down for stock and soups, and bread crusts and ends can be used to make tasty homemade croutons.

8. Donate excess: Food banks and shelters gladly welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. The charity group Feeding America partners with over 200 local food banks across the United States, supplying food to more than 37 million people each year. To find a food bank near you, visit the organization's Food Bank Locator.

9. Support food-recovery programs: In some cases, food-recovery systems will come to you to collect your excess. In New York City, City Harvest, the world's first food-rescue organization, collects approximately 28 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise go to waste, providing groceries and meals for over 300,000 people.

Throughout the holiday season: Consider what you're giving.

10. Give gifts with thought: When giving food as a gift, avoid highly perishable items and make an effort to select foods that you know the recipient will enjoy rather than waste. The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit, works with farmers and producers in tropical areas to ensure they are practicing environmentally sustainable and socially just methods. The group's certified chocolates, coffee, and teas are great gifts that have with long shelf-lives, and buying them helps support businesses and individuals across the world.

As we sit down this week to give thanks for the people and things around us, we must also recognize those who may not be so fortunate. The food wasted in the United States each year is enough to satisfy the hunger of the approximately 1 billion malnourished people worldwide, according to Tristram Stuart, a food waste expert and contributing author to State of the World 2011. As we prepare for upcoming holiday celebrations, the simple changes we make, such as using food responsibly and donating excess to the hungry, can help make the holiday season more plentiful and hunger-free for all.

For more, visit Nourishing the Planet's website:

Take the Food Scrap Challenge

Every year, dosage residents of Alameda County send over 400, viagra 100mg 000 tons of food waste to the landfill.

You can help by

  • Buying only what you need
  • Saving and using leftovers
  • Paying attention to expiration dates
  • Donating excess food
  • Composting your food scraps at home or in your green waste bin

As we head into the Thanksgiving and winter festivity season, pledge to do your part-

Click here to take the Food Scrap Challenge!

Wasted- Part #1

In 2008, here StopWaste.Org commissioned a study of what we throw in the landfill. The 2008 Waste Characterization Study for Alameda County is the result of the study and contains many informative and shocking results.

As a county, we deposited nearly 1.2 million tons of waste in landfills in 2008. 1.2 million tons is a staggering number and difficult to visualize- when converted to pounds of waste, as a more familiar measure, the numbers get even more mind-boggling at 2.4 billion pounds of waste. This is enough to fill 170,000 garbage trucks full of waste.

The worst part of the story becomes clear when we examine what was in those garbage trucks. The Waste Characterization Study conducted a large scale waste audit - pulling fully loaded trucks out of the line at the landfill to study what they carried.

The study examined 48 types of waste in 9 broad categories and found that about 70% of what we throw away could have been easily diverted to existing recycling, composting, or other diversion systems.

Material Type Tons %
Paper 248,198 20.9%
Plastics 117.789 9.9%
Glass 35,172 3%
Metals 50,530 4.3%
Yard Waste 68,072 5.7%
Organics 478,530 40.3%
Inerts 135,715 11.4%
Household Hazardous Waste   11,879 1%
Special Waste 41,225 3.5%

For example, we throw away enough aluminum cans to fill 262 garbage trucks, enough glass bottles to fill 2,900 trucks and enough newspaper to fill 1321 garbage trucks.

Out of the 48 types of waste studied, the biggest single contributor to landfill dumping was food waste accounting for nearly 19% of the waste stream, or 222,475 tons of waste.  119,891 tons of compostable paper representing 10% of material headed to landfill was the second most common item headed to the dump. 

If residents of Alameda County composted all their food waste and compostable paper, we could cut the amount of waste headed to landfill by 30% saving nearly 49,000 loads of valuable resources from the landfill.

More about food scraps and organic waste in Wasted - Part 2