Kennedy High School shows that "going green" equates with "saving green" by reducing garbage service in half compared to last year. In the last four years, Kennedy has expanded recycling, added green waste service for kitchen food scraps, and integrated environmental programming into a wide range of curricula. The efforts have paid off, both in terms of resource conservation and the bottom line.
The school used to have three garbage dumpsters that were picked up three times each week. This year, the school has reduced the garbage pick up to two containers, twice per week.
"Three years ago, we were sending 9 full dumpsters to the landfill each week," reports lead custodian Liz North, "now two bins are picked up twice per week, and usually one of them is empty- I'd get rid of another one, but I like to have it on hand, just in case."
The reduced service is saving the campus $400 per month in hauling fees.
To achieve such a dramatic reduction, Kennedy has made a number of changes to the operations, management, and education on campus including:
- Pairing each indoor and outdoor trash can with a recycling bin
- Adding green waste service for kitchen food scraps
- Involving student clubs in recycling paper, bottles and cans
- Creating "green-themed" career pathways in technology and culinary arts
- Implementing an aggressive campus beautification campaign
Recycling at Kennedy High School
Student clubs at Kennedy collect paper and CRV materials to divert them from the landfill and raise funds for environmental initiatives on campus. According to Yovani, the recycling club treasurer, the club has been able to fund three $200 "green scholarships" and purchase plants, gloves, bags, bins and other supplies to beautify and maintain the campus.Recycling club members report that a major shift has taken place in the attitude of the student body, "people think twice before throwing stuff out- they think about where it will go and how long it will take to break down. I think we are really helping our school and providing an example to others."
A strong testament to the success of Kennedy's efforts to recycle CRV materials comes from lead custodian Liz North, "scavengers used to dig through our garbage and recycling dumpsters- they'd throw stuff all over the place as they dug out bottles and cans- now, they don't come to Kennedy any more because the students have diverted so much out of the waste stream that there is nothing left to scavenge."
Moving from "Who cares?" to "This Matters!"
One of the most remarkable changes to take place at Kennedy over the last 5 years has been the transformation of courtyards from hard packed dirt to small gardens. English Language teacher Lauretta Aldridge views the improvement of the campus environment as a critical part of student academic success and environmental dispositions- "In the past, students would see a trashed campus, and think, 'Who cares?' They felt that nobody cared about the campus, that nobody cared about their education, so why should they?"
The campus has four central courtyards. Each has been adopted by one of the classes and class officers are responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and beautification of their area. Students have planted native plants, installed stepping stones, spread mulch to keep down weeds, and more to create pleasant sitting areas around campus. The school's Green Ventures Academy also contributes to the beautification efforts by maintaining vegetable and flower gardens in smaller courtyards outside of classrooms. The academy also provides funding and support to English Learner and Special Education programs to provide students with hands on opportunities to learn.
The campus is becoming an oasis with plenty of sitting areas next to flowers, shade trees, and other plants that provide habitat for a wide range of birds and butterflies.
Green for All
Kennedy High School has implemented a wide range of programs that seek to engage all students in meaningful academic work that often includes environmental programming. In 2008, all 9th graders participated in a project based learning lesson focused on the topic of "sustainability." The school has created two green-themed career academies in Green Technology and Agriculture/Culinary Arts. Importantly, the school makes sure that these opportunities are available to all students.
English Language teacher Lauretta Aldrich uses the garden space outside of her room to anchor hands on lessons to help her students gain English skills while learning science content in Biology and Ecology.
Ms. Kohl, a special education teacher, has worked with her autistic students to transform a hard-packed area of campus into a texture garden for her students. The garden provides her students with opportunities to develop responsibility, independence, and other employability skills. Ms. Kohl reports that many of her students have difficulty with new textures and tastes. When students see plants grow from seeds they are able to become familiar with the plants over time which lowers the students' anxiety about the world around them. Because the garden is located just outside her classroom, Ms. Kohl is able to use it as a "positive distraction" when a student is having a tough day. A few minutes taking care of a chore in the garden helps defuse tensions and frustrations common in the day of an autistic student.
Engaging all Stakeholders
Kennedy has worked hard to make sure that students are making the right choices about where to put waste. They have worked equally hard to support all campus staff in implementing waste reduction.
The Kennedy kitchen prepares meals for over 2000 per day for students at 6 elementary schools, a middle school and the high school itself. Reducing waste from the kitchen has been an important factor in Kennedy's efforts. Each prep station in the kitchen has a green waste bin paired with every garbage bin. All kitchen staff have been trained to separate organic waste from garbage, and now the kitchen diverts waxed cardboard, food soiled cardboard, food scraps and uneaten foods into the composting stream.
Dora, the kitchen's manager, is thrilled with the program and reports an unanticipated benefit. "Originally there was concern about attracting pests. However, we just had the pest management company come out and they reported that there are less problems now than in the past. Instead of having so much food waste spread out among all the garbage bins, it is in one place now and much easier to control."
Kennedy's inclusive team approach has resulted in a more sustainable, pleasant and engaging campus for students, staff and community members alike.