StopWaste at School


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Alameda Community Learning Center

The Alameda Community Learning Center (ACLC) empowers all youth to take ownership of their educational experience, to celebrate their diverse community, and to actively participate as members in a democratic society. To this end, high school learners through their Environmental Science class work with the ACLC middle school learners in environmental education by leading marsh restoration trips in collaboration with Save the Bay.  Seniors take on recycling projects that benefit the entire community and the entire campus is investigating new ways to expand environmental responsibility.

Recycling Rules Enacted in School Constitution

Student Government in ActionStudent Government in ActionRecently ACLC held its annual Constitutional Convention. One of the sessions was on waste reduction and recycling. Over 60 learners participated in a discussion of the current efforts ACLC is making on waste reduction and recycling. Many noted that our recycling bins are not correctly used. Based on this observation from the learner community four proposals were written.
  1. There should be a rule at ACLC that the community must put their waste into the correct blue/green/grey bins. If a community member breaks this rule they will be sent to the Judicial Committee where they will be assigned a recycling task. The goal being correct recycling and community buy into recycling
  2. The current proposal form that is sent to Student Government should be revised to include a plan for recycling.
  3. There should be a rule that community members should not move the three bins. They should always stay where they are.
  4. It is proposed that there is to be a learner elected Green Commissioner. This commissioner will work to keep our recycling efforts consistant.

Proposals 1 & 3 have been fully discussed, voted on and passed. These two rules will ensure that trash, recycling bins, and compost bins are always co-located on campus to facilitate proper disposal choices. It is now against the rules at ACLC to put the wrong thing into any of the bins.

Proposals 2 & 4 will be discussed in upcoming meetings

Thanks to ACLC's Maria Mandanas, Environmental Leadership learner for her contributions to this article.

Poster Blitz at Alameda Community Center

Recycling PosterRecycling PosterIn the spring of 2012 a waste audit at ACLC showed that 80% of the material in the trash could be composted or recycled. Motivated by these findings, learners began planning ways to start the 2012-2013 school year with improved waste diversion.

Facilitator Patricia Williamson explains, "they decided their first step this year would be to monitor the recycling stations and trash cans to see if people were using them correctly. So, they found discrete places they could sit and watch how people actually disposed of their waste. They discovered that many people did not pay attention to where they threw their waste."


Recycling Poster MemeRecycling Poster Meme

Next, the learners announced their findings at the weekly campus-wide meeting. They reported that many trash cans on campus are not co-located with recycling bins, and those that are often do not have signs showing where to place different items. Even when signs were in place, their peers were not taking care to recycle materials such as paper. They also identified specific problems like the lack of bins next to the sink where diverse types of waste are present and the need for a focused effort in the seminar room where a large volume of the campus' waste is generated..

At the meeting they encouraged everybody to properly use the trash, compost, and recycling bins on campus, and pledged to organize a poster blitz to make sure that waste reduction messages are clearly posted across the campus.

"They plan to do follow-up studies and monitoring of the system to see if there are improvements," said Williamson. "They've designed a 'Red,' 'Yellow,' 'Green,' system to visually show the community how they did the previous day. They hope that regular monitoring and feedback to the community will lead to proper bin usage and waste reduction throughout the year."

ACLC Waste Audit

ACLC Waste AuditACLC Waste Audit

Inspired by Earth Day and in preparation for next year, Alameda Community Learning Center conducted a comprehensive waste audit to learn what is in one week's worth of their trash. EarthTeam educator Jamilah Bradshaw provided scales, bins, gloves, aprons, goggles and leadership for the event.

On Friday, April 20, EarthTeam presented to Patricia Williamson's 5th period Environmental Science class, which included two seniors who have decided on devising and implementing a recycling program at their school for their final project.

Later that day, joined by Molly Fenn's Leadership class, the learners conducted a waste audit. Having 22 bags of trash to sort through, they found an overwhelming majority of their waste stream was paper (55.5 lbs)!


Audit ResultsAudit Results

Audit results from the 105.5 pounds of waste sorted:


  • 55.5 pounds of paper
  • 21.5 pounds of food scraps
  • 21 pounds destined for landfill
  • 4 pounds of plastic
  • 2.5 pounds of metal
  • 1 pound of glass

Learners were surprized to discover a functioning stapler, classroom books and half eaten muffins in the trash.






On Monday, April 23, EarthTeam facilitated an Action-Planning session with Patricia's Environmental Science learners and Molly's Leadership learners. The learners reviewed the waste audit and their reactions to it, looked at their waste audit photographs and their pie chart, discussed the culture of disposability, and worked in groups to prepare mind-maps regarding waste reduction problems and solutions.


T-Shirt Rugs and Trivets

Hula-hoop t-shirt rugHula-hoop t-shirt rugInspired by students from Fremont's American High School (article), ACLC organized a series of creative reuse projects to help raise awareness about waste reduction and recycling on campus and in the community.

On Wednesday, January 25th, students learned how to create rugs, hats, trivets, and other crafts by weaving strands of discarded t-shirts.

In preparation for the activity, the school launched a used t-shirt drive to collect the raw materials for the project.  School volunteers, faciliators and learners alike researched innovative ways to create rugs and found a clever way to make them using picture frames or hula-hoops as a weaving frame. (Instructions here:

Paper Beads at ACLC

Paper Bead BraceletPaper Bead BraceletAlameda Community Learning Center Alumna Laura Williamson returned to campus to lead a workshop teaching paper bead making. The lesson was part of the school's effort to implement a recycling system and raise awareness about waste reduction.

Williamson, a recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz, volunteers at ACLC to teach art skills promoting broader thinking about sustainability. Inspired by the Green Educator Open House at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Williamson organized a paper bead making activity and t-shirt rug project for the ACLC campus.

"In addition to reusing paper to make the beads, we also re-purposed a Styrofoam cooler as a platform for drying the paper beads," explains Williamson.

Instructions for paper bead making can be found here.