StopWaste at School


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The Reuse Corner

~Resources and ideas for the thrifty and creative teacher.

GSC- Friday Keynotes

Notes from the Green Schools Conference

Wendy Rogers LPA LEED professional for Integrated Sustainable Design. 

She believes that the weak economy may be the way for the foreseeable future.  Integrated Sustainable Design works with schools and districts to develop site specific, informed design processes that save money and revolve around the student.  She believes it is important to show the tax payers that they are getting their money's worth in any new school building. 

She presented a case study: Lake Tahoe school.  The buildings she designed were a Green Academy, media/performance arts, community center and a series of classrooms.  A big goal was to get students out of portables.  Building considerations were snow melt, extreme weather conditions.  They designed buildings that sent water into bio-swales.  An auto lab was designed with 12 bays to fix green vehicles and is designed to work in connection with the hands-on learning lab next door.  Students can design something in one room and build it in the next room. 

Ms. Rogers chairs the Orange County USGBC chapter and has done considerable work with Irvine School District.  Students run green teams at Irvine schools. So far, 7 schools have become Green schools within the district.  She believes that schools must balance being frugal and being green in order to insure the future.

Eric Corey Freed, green architect from Bay Area who works with schools. 

He has also written books and teaches.  In the past, architects were asked to design a traditional building and then add green stuff to make it more efficient.  Done this way, green buildings do cost more than traditional ones.  By starting to green the building from the beginning, there exists an opportunity to something new and innovative.  Schools don't typically just meet building codes.  Codes don't address indoor air quality.  Maintenance is the main consideration in any school design in the past.  Prevailing wage is the second biggest consideration in school building design. 

Mr. Freed presented what he believes are the 3 challenges to the environment are: Spills, Sins and Starbucks.  It has been 8 months since the Deep Water Horizon spill.  Spill is too small of a word to describe the environmental catastrophe that happened in the Gulf.  BP had received 760 citations for safety problems in 3 years.  During that time, the remainder of the industry as a whole, received 97.  The entire amount of oil spilled would only satisfy 6 hours of our current usage level.  Highways and cars destroy communities, paving over 50 to 70% of city land.  Public transportation has suffered as well. 

The 7 deadly sins can be used to describe the entire event.  Greed: BP executives.  Lust: American public with its love of the car, regardless of the environmental impact.  Gluttony: Lobbyists as there are 4 climate lobbyists per legislator, costing $3.5 billion a year, which could go a long way to paying for environmental clean-up.  Sloth: the Media, not investigating oil companies and alerting the public to BP's environmental track record.  Envy: Regulators who are often former lobbyists and oil company executives.  Pride: Politicians like Senator Vitter who said that stopping drilling in the gulf coast would devastate the economy.  The result is that nothing is getting done and politicians remain in power.  Wrath: the American Public who is angry about the spill.  The United States imports 71% of oil needed for current consumption levels.  Offshore drilling makes up 1% of all US oil needs.  71% of all oil used goes to transportation.  All presidents back to Lyndon Johnson have stated that the US needs an energy policy but one has still not been developed.  Starbucks is the 3rd place, between home and work.  They have developed the "coffee culture".  They use 2.3 billion cups per year.  Beans come from 13 different companies, sugar from 2 companies and paper from 4 countries.  They are truly an multinational corporation.  Since 2006, American's belief in the reality of global warming has decreased and the new American past time is Blissful Ignorance.

GSC - "School Recycling Challenge",

Notes from the Green Schools Conference

Christine Lenches-Hinkel, mind WasteLess Living consultants. 

The goal of her work is to heighten the awareness of solid waste and disposal issues and their environmental effects.  There is a need to increase the production and use of compost to replace top soil which is being lost at a staggering rate.  Her company also sells a line of petroleum free utensils and plates for special events as well as providing collection bins.  Materials collected at these events are recycled or composted.  She sees her program as providing services at schools as a back of house problem solver.  She pointed out that 80% of what is purchased every day is thrown away in 6 months.  She wants schools to take advantage of existing collection and recycling infrastructure and increase use of commercial composting programs. 

Case study: High Point Academy, stuff private school in Pasadena/Altarena area.  She was hired to work with the school to implement a comprehensive recycling program.  She sought to enhance existing curriculum through hands-on practices, clinic create a closed loop recycling program, get student participation, minimize staff retraining and maximize landfill diversion.  The school population was 450 total including 350 k-8 students.  She launched the program in May 2009 as a pilot during which 77% waste was diverted from the landfill, of which 65% was organics.  Students were involved collecting waste data every day.  She found that the factors that worked were: a 3 bins system with regular collection with a specific hauler, providing constant training with students, conversion to biodegradable tableware, student engagement and management of program by 6th graders and regular oversight and monitoring on her part. 

The challenges faced by the program included: perceived complexity, teaming up with food service provider to change lunchroom products, resistance and buy in from students and staff, identifying the most appropriate program for the school, contamination and re-education of students and teachers.  The school was paying for too much garbage service and by right-sizing collection containers and increased recycling, the school saved significantly, $235 a week.

Christine Flowers, Executive Director, Keep California Beautiful

The School Recycling Challenge was run in November 2010 with 88 schools participating.  The project was funded by Keep America Beautiful.  The program was designed as a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for school recycling programs.  The point of contact for each school could be anyone involved with the school be it a teacher, administrator, parent or waste hauler.  Waste haulers were helpful in the project reporting because the AB 32 and AB939 reporting requirements.  The project goals were developing an identifiable brand, development of on-line reporting methodology and the development of categories that reflected the variety of schools.  Local governments and waste professionals were involved in developing the rules, instructions and other materials.  The results were self reported and still coming in from schools. 

The website went live on October 8 and competition began November 1.  Schools from 23 counties participated.  Five school districts applied.  92,223 students and 4,356 students participated.  Case study: Wasco Unified School District enrolled all 5 schools.  Each school had 4 dumpsters and no recycling in school year 2007/08.  In 2010/11, each school site has 1 dumpster for waste and 1 dumpster for recycling.  Waste hauling charges have been reduced from $95, 000 to $44,000.  Ms. Flowers introduced Ray Scott, waste and recycling service provider for Wasco Unified School District.  He stated that it is vital to put a blue recycling container in each classroom. This single action resulted in a 40% savings in the trash bill.  Custodians no longer handle as much material.  Students take classroom bins to a 96 gallon Toter which the custodians wheel to the curb for collection. 

The schools also participate in an art contest which is one portion of the larger Great American Clean-up in Bakersfield.  Mr. Scott want to install compactors at all school sites to further reduce volume of waste generated at schools.  Ms. Flowers noted that the contest results will be finalized by the end of December 2010.

GSC- "Greens Hands-on Learning- Case Studies"

Notes from the Green Schools Conference

Will Rogers Middle School, Fair Oaks ~ Naomi Harper 

The school has a large amount of their boundary facing the American River Parkway.  Some of the schools existing environmental efforts include a  recycling program and a solar powered car race, organized in partnership with American River Community College.  They have also installed rain catchment systems.  The school also partners with Facing Our Future organization to address issues of climate change and environmental concern.  The Facing Our Future materials are fully aligned with the California State Content Standards.  She seeks to engage students through exploration of global issues.  The first activity she does with students is "How Big is a Billion?"   She has students count the number of grains of wheat there are in a teaspoon (150 to 175 grains.)  Then she has students multiply that number to reach a billion grains.  Then figure out how many gallons of wheat is a billion.  The second activity is "Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming", using an Earth beach ball, layer of plastic film and a yellow ball to represent the sun.  She puts green strips on post it notes on the plastic film to simulate things students can do to reduce climate change.  A big component of Facing the Future curriculum is the Service Learning components.

Ashley Scott-Cooper, Biology teacher, Thousand Oaks High School

She organizes a Sustainability Summit for high school students.  She invites experts from the community to speak for one class period about environmental issues for the country and world.  Last year's summit featured 9 speakers and 2 school district officials.  Students gained an understanding of larger issues, current events and emerging technologies.  Featured speakers were an EPA staff member, school district energy manager, water conservation expert, economic development leader, vocational training options for green jobs at the Community College level, solar schools initiatives representative, California Fisheries researcher, and teen environmental leader Alec Loorz.  Students found the experience very beneficial.  Students prepared a press release to inform the community about the event and many organizations and businesses offered resources and donations of time.  A local elected official nominated the school for an environmental award.  The Summit was followed up with classroom discussions and activities that reinforced the concept of sustainability. After the Summit, the school started a paper recycling program.  Bottles and cans are collected as a school fundraiser.  However, the principal is not very supportive of green activities in general.  Ms. Scott-Cooper hopes to see a district Green position that will comprehensively examine district activities, water and energy use.

Make a Reuse Notebook

It seems like I always have a list of some sort in progress. Whether it is the weekend tasks or shopping, search my pocket have lists in them at all times. I recently found a FedEx envelope and a stack of paper that had been used on one side. These would make a good list pad if I could only figure out how to bind them. Then I saw the binding machine in my office. So, sales here is what I did.

Materials List:

  • 25 or more sheets of paper
  • 1 FedEx envelope
  • 1 binding
  • Binding machine


1. Cut the paper in half. Then stack the half sheets so that the blank sides all face the same direction.

Cut PaperCut Paper

2. Trim the edges of the FedEx envelope and cut 2 pieces to 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches.

Trim EdgesTrim Edges

3. Place edges in the binding machine to punch holes.

Binding MachineBinding Machine

4. Bind the cover and paper together with a plastic binding.  These plastic bindings are reusable until they become brittle. The pad on the left has a decoupage cover, using a floral catalog which makes the cover more sturdy. I use a rubber band or hair elastic to keep the notebook closed.

Decorate CoverDecorate Cover

The Gift

It is the season of giving.  Again.  This is the time of year I experience a struggle.  Do I purchase the new, best, fastest, shiny, cool, gotta-have-it thing?  Or do I show how much I value the people in my life with something made just for them?  I don't think it has to always be one way or the other.  Granted, I am something of a Luddite, in that I don't always embrace the newest gadgets.  Don't get me wrong, I love my smart phone as much as the next person, especially now that I know how to use the navigation feature.  But, in the middle of all the rampant consumerism that strikes us all this time of year, give the environment a bit of a break.  Perhaps you can consider some of these  ways to cut down on waste during the season of excess.
  1. Use a reusable bag when purchasing anything!  Paper or Plastic?  NEITHER!  I have my own reusable shopping bag.
  2. Think about durability when purchasing anything.  It isn't a real value if you have to buy a new one to replace the old one because the old one gets broken.  Can the new thing be repaired?  This is a hard one as many things produced in the recent past can't be repaired.  While I have many pairs of shoes, more than one person needs, they all can be re-soled and repaired.  Sounds like a rationalization... but it IS true.
  3. Would the intended recipient like an experience instead of a thing as a gift?  If yes, take them to a movie, out to dinner, offer to fix their bike, take them to a museum or out for a walk.  It can also be a great way to reconnect with someone you care about without breaking the bank.
  4. Use a reusable gift bag.  You can find instructions for this project in an earlier posting.
  5. Donate money to a charity in the name of a gift recipient.  We tried this last year for a friend's children, with some trepidation on my part.  But, much to our relief and pleasure, the kids loved having a donation made in their names to save animals.  We have the hand drawn thank you letters as proof (I was guaranteed that the letters were not produced under parental pressure.)
  6. Look for products that aren't over packaged.  Do you have to use a blow torch to open the package?  If so, maybe this isn't the best purchase.  Look for products that feature recyclable packaging.
  7. Buy recycled.  There are so many wonderful sources of recycled products that it can be fairly easy to find just the right thing for that special someone.  Etsy features some great stuff as does Eco-Artware, World of Good, GoGreenItems and many, many more.

What suggestions can you add to this?  I would love to hear what the creative and thrifty might have to add.  Please let me know about what you do to reduce waste and still have fun during the holidays!