StopWaste at School


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American High School features a model student led recycling program to divert paper and CRV material from the waste stream.  Funds from the recycling program are channeled back into campus beautification efforts including tree planting.  Students in science classes regularly participate in activities such as paper making and labs that investigate materials separation techniques used in single stream recycling systems.  American High School hosts monthly meetings of FIERCE- FremontIans Enabling Real Change in the Environment- a student group representing each of Fremont's five high schools that work together to plan community events and organize service projects such as the establishment of community gardens.

Club Based Recycling at American High

American High Sort TeamAmerican High Sort TeamOnce a week students on American High's Recycling Team hustle to the storage container near the science wing of the campus. There, they sign in, check out a toter and head out to classrooms across the campus of 2000 students.

Each classroom is equipped with a garbage can paired with a paper recycling bin and a container for bottles and cans. Working in small teams, each group handles separate responsibilities.

The "Paper Team" empties classroom boxes of paper and cardboard into rolling toters and pulls any stray bottles and cans out for cash redemption. When the rolling toters are full, the paper team takes the paper and cardboard directly to the recycling dumpster.

The "Bottle Team" pulls bags of bottles and cans from classroom containers and places them in the rolling toters. Students put fresh liner bags in the containers and return them to the classroom. The frequent replacement of clear liner bags helps to cut down on ants and other pests that are attracted to the liquids associated with bottle and can recycling. Students take full toters of bottles and cans to the sort area to reclaim CRV (California Redemption Value) bottles and cans for cash.

In the sort area near the shipping container, the "Sort Team" processes all recycled materials.  They process the bottles and cans to separate aluminum, milky white HDPE plastic bottles such as milk and juice containers, and clear PET plastic bottles that typically contain water, energy drinks and sodas.  The sort team bags and stores aluminum and PET plastic to redeem for cash while placing other plastics in the school's recycling dumpster for processing by the school's waste hauler.  The sort team also separates paper and cardboard into separate dumpster bins for recycling by the hauler.

The entire process takes less than 20 minutes during a silent reading period structured somewhat like a "homeroom," and generates income for on-campus environmental restoration projects, campus beautification, and science programs.

This video below provides a quick overview of the program:

Student Organized Eco-Fair October 23

ecofairecofairYou are invited to attend the student organized ECOFAIR on Saturday, October 23 from 10:00 AM-4:00 PM. 

This year's ECOFAIR has been organized by students participating in FIERCE, a student led environmental club representing environmentally minded students from schools across Southern Alameda County.

The students have recrutied a wide range of businesses, community groups, and government agencies to share their green practices with the community.  The event will feature Segway rides, plant sales, an eco-fashion show and more.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

American High School is located at 36300 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA

"Shopping" on Freecycle

Freecycle WheelbarrowFreecycle WheelbarrowWith a budget of approximately zero dollars, students and teachers have had to be creative in finding ways to reuse and repurpose materials to suit their needs for the garden.

However, sometimes you need a wheelbarrow.

As plans for the garden emerge, students and teachers keep a running list of materials and supplies they need, then seek donations from community members.

A valuable source of materials has been an organization dedicated to, "build[ing] a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community."

Freecycle provides an online clearning house to redistribute usable items in a community.  In the case of American High's Garden, freecycle matched a community member looking to get rid of a wheelbarrow with the students looking to build a garden.

Consider using freecycle or craigslist instead of the garbage can for your reusable items. 

Garden Hose Spikes

Garden Hose SpikeGarden Hose SpikeGarden hose spikes are used to prevent hoses from being dragged across planter beds to protect plants from damage.

The problem with most commercially available hose spikes is that they cost money, they are somewhat flimsy and easily knocked out of the ground, and frequently aren't tall enough to keep hoses from dragging into planter beds.

American High School found a much better solution in a creative reuse of somebody's garbage.  Teacher Candy Sykes found plastic spindles at RAFT- Resource Area For Teaching, a local non-profit organization dedicated to collecting usable and interesting discards from silicon valley companies for donation or resale to teachers and schools.

Reuse SpindleReuse SpindleGarden volunteer Ed Sykes speculates that the spindles were probably donated by a tech company that once had them coiled with wire or cable and notes that they are superior to any other garden hose spike he's seen before.

The wide base of the spindles combined with their considerable height make them ideal garden spikes. Students dug a wide hole about a foot deep and planted the spindles at the corners of planter beds to keep hoses out. 

Sheet Mulching

Moistening Sheet MulchMoistening Sheet MulchSheet mulching is a technique used to supress weeds, build soil nutrients, conserve water, and protect garden plants. 

The key to sheet mulching is to lay down a weed barrier such as cardboard.  The cardboard prevents light from reaching the soil and creates a barrier to plant growth.  It allows water to drain into the soil and breaks down naturally over time, avoiding many of the problems associated with plastic weed barriers.

Students collected cardboard boxes left over from a delivery of new desks, chairs and tables and spread them over the weeded areas of the garden.  Students then moistened the cardboard to help it conform to the contours of the soil before covering it with tan bark mulch.

To learn more about sheet mulching, visit StopWaste.Org's Bay Friendly Landscaping pages

Sheet MulchingSheet MulchingInstalling SheetsInstalling Sheets