StopWaste at School


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In 2009, Irvington was recognized as "America's Greenest School" in a competition sponsored by IC Bus Company.  Irvington has established a number of student led environmental clubs, created a "Green Commissioner" position in student government, and created grade-level wide environmental service-learning projects.  Between 2007-2009, Irvington has diverted over 100,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills, installed solar panels, worked to increase energy efficiency, hosted a community green fair and more. 

Go-Green Commissioner

Tiffany Ta, <a href=Tiffany Ta, malady 2013-2014 Green Commissioner" width="300" height="200" />In 2009, Irvington High School’s student government created the position of “Go-Green Commissioner” to reduce the environmental impact of student organized activities and other campus-wide events involving the school’s 2000+ students. The Go-Green Commissioner is responsible for campus beautification and the on-going goal of making the campus greener. This position is one of reusing, reducing, and recycling. This commissioner ensures that the IHS campus is kept green and clean.

Tiffany Ta is Irvington’s 2013-2014 Go-Green Commissioner. As a freshman, Ta was inspired by Jasper Lin- a previous commissioner- who helped Irvington win recognition as “America’s Greenest School” in a competition sponsored by IC Bus Company.

As Commissioner, Ta helps lead Irvington’s Green Advisory group, advises ASB and school clubs on best environmental practices for school events, and helps connect outside agencies with the school.

“I have partnered with Safe Routes on many events such as Cocoa for Carpools, Bike Mobile, and Walk and Roll Events. We are planning the Golden Sneaker Contest at this point with Mr. Jackson. The recycling has been delegated instead of me doing it all the time. Clubs and I have been working on ways to improve the overall “greenness of it”. Although I have been in charge of the garbage collection circle for two years now, it is going much more smoothly this year. We have also been throwing ideas back about biodegradable forks and plates to reduce the amount of waste during Club Rush. I am also working with Service Learning and Mr. Willer on our “green” campaign of using less poster paper which includes limiting the places where people can put posters and putting up electronic boards. We are also toying with the idea of painting “ Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… ect” on a large wall and posting up big news such as winterball and such on these large surfaces to publicize more effectively with less paper.  I have been in charge of green advisory this year and they have been a great support system and I advise any new Go-Green Commissioner to be in the advisory and head it so that you can know what is going on at all times with anything Green.” Tiffany Ta

Cocoa for Carpools

 Walk and Roll to School

Go-Green Commissioner Job Description

Irvington recently updated the job description for the Go Green Commissioner:

The Go- Green Commissioner is here to ensure that what can be done about the greenness of our school is done, this is not limited to campus beautification but also education. This position is one reducing, reusing, and recycling which does not always have to mean objects. They are here to encourage use of more recycled materials and to be as conscientious of the environment of our school as possible. They are here to ensure that the wholesome green environment of IHS is maintained and progresses.  

Required Duties are as stated, but not limited to:

  1. Assisting Student Council as a whole, as needed.
  2. Analyze “green-ness” of all school events. (benchbuilding, club rush day, etc.)
  3. Ensure that all school events (especially where food is being sold) are provided with adequate recycling facilities. 
  4. Head green advisory to streamline school-wide recycling, beautification, and other innovative ideas.
  5. Work with ASB and staff on campus beautification and education.
  6. Work with Clubs Commissioner to create a way of checking greenness of events with master calendar requests.
  7. Serve as the Chairperson of the ecology fair and earth week/day.
  8. Facilitate a proper clean up at the end of first and second round campaigning weeks.
  9. Attend daily leadership class and weekly business meetings.
  10. Delegate the task of recycling.
  11. Work with Safe Routes for events that coincide with the green integrity of IHS.
  12.  Initiate green initiatives that create a better green environment for our school.
  13. Work with Service Learning for the recycling center every Friday.

The Change Project

Change Project Open HouseChange Project Open House

Working in teams of four, 9th grade students at Irvington High School choose an environmental problem, research it, develop a solution, take action and report out to the community. Since the project's inception over 15 years ago, Irvington students have completed well over 75,000 hours of environmental service to their community.

"The Change Project" is interdisiplinary between Science and English classes at Irvington and is a requirement for all 9th grade students. The Change Project was designed to help students learn about and practice Irvington's four school-wide outcomes (Communication, Critical Thinking, Personal Responsibility, Social Responsibility) while learning key content and skills in English and Science.

Dan Pearce, Change Project CoordinatorDan Pearce, Change Project Coordinator

Each spring, Irvington hosts the Change Project Open House where students present their research and service projects to the broader community. This year's projects included food scrap diversion, rainwater harvesting, dental waste, plastic pollution, cosmetics recycling, pesticides, crayon recycling, overfishing, honey bee decline, and many other interesting topics.

Nearly 1000 people are estimated to have participated in this year's open house.

In advance of the Open House, students present their findings during classroom presentations. Here is a sample of a project about plastic, and another about tire recycling.



Irvington Teachers Recognized by EarthTeam

Valery Lynn and Natalia SkolnikValery Lynn and Natalia SkolnikThis semester EarthTeam had the privilege to work with two of Irvington High School's star teachers! These instructors have shown how passionate they are about the environment and their students. Ms. Lynn and Ms Skolnik collaborated together to bring the Waste Action Project to over a hundred students on campus.

These two wonderful women started the program off by collecting a week's worth of Irvington waste on campus to start awareness on campus about how much trash their school was sending to the landfill. They both participated in the two day long marathon of waste audits and had meaningful discussions and words of encouragement with each of their groups of students. They also have dedicated themselves to help their passionate students with their waste reduction action plans. Irvington High School teacher and student initiatives have definitely reinforced Irvington's title as the one of the 'Greenest Schools in America'. - EarthTeam

Natalia Skolnik

"I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in English and minor in Ethnic Studies. Working in the public sector and nonprofit world for a few years after graduation, introduced me to deeper and more realistic concepts of environmental sustainability than I had seen in college. After going on a service learning trip to El Salvador, I decided to quit my job and apply to teaching programs. I earned my teaching credential and later M.S. in Educational Leadership from CSU East Bay.

I believe education can be the key to combating the most destructive aspects of society (i.e. climate change, bigotry, violence, etc) and making positive change possible. A meaningful education needs include putting ideas into action. When we design curriculum to be project based and about things students see as tangible, I find students are more accountable to each other, their community and it absolutely strengthens their academic identites. In short, students work much harder when they can see it matters. Doing projects with Earthteam like their Waste Audit, taking students to the LEAF conferences, participating and presenting in community forums, and creating projects that foster sustainability and civic responsibility helps students to do this. I have enjoyed my nine years working at Irvington High School, where this school strives to teach students to be their best selves."

Valery Lynn

"I earned my BS from Purdue University in entomology and agriculture. I spent a year in Pakistan teaching at the International School of Islamabad. After that, I went to Cornell University to earn a Master's degree in science education with a minor in environmental education. At Cornell, I worked as the assistant director for a stream ecology monitoring project designed to be implemented by teachers. This has inspired me to continue to work, as a teacher, to increase community involvement and protection of the environment through service learning.

I've been teaching at Irvington High School for three years: biology, AP biology, and biotechnology. Before that I taught science at the juvenile hall in San Mateo. I have always loved science and once I was bitten by the teaching bug there has been nothing else for me! Every day I feel like the luckiest girl in the world – I get paid to do what I love, I get to have fun every day, and I get to help better the world with some of the best people on the planet. Thank you Earth Team!"

Republished from EarthTeam

Tour of Fremont's Transfer Station and HHW Facilities

Guest post by Irvington Senior Sophia Chan

I toured the Fremont Recycling & Transfer Station with several questions in mind: how does Fremont organize its trash and what do the Fremont Recycling & Transfer Station and Household Hazardous Waste Facilities do?

Front Office

Bruce Fritz at the front officeBruce Fritz at the front officeI met with Bruce Fritz, my tour guide, who began the tour with a model of the facility in the front office. He first explained the general logistics of the facility and its purpose to the city.

"We don't actually recycle the paper and cardboard," said Fritz. "Garbage trucks from curbside collections and businesses drop off their garbage and recyclables here; we separate the trash as much as we can, and large trucks either take tons of it to landfills or businesses take what they want for a fee to turn it into a new product."

After the general introduction, I put on my hard hat, bright orange jacket (so I wouldn't get run over by trucks), and lab glasses, and I left the safe and comforting office models to see the dusty and odorous world of trash and recycling up close and personal.

Main Drop-Off Floor

Office model of the facilityOffice model of the facilityWe entered the main room with all the bales of cardboard, plastic, and wood. Fritz pointed to the plastic bales and noted the facility also packs cardboard, mixed rigid plastic (think playground structures), natural clear plastic (think plastic bags), wood, and other recyclables into individual bales to organize all the trash a bit more. He elaborated that yard waste and general trash goes into their own separate piles, where large trucks or businesses can take them away.

"We categorize and then compress what we categorize," said Fritz. "The paper bales are predominantly newspaper, and the mixed paper is mostly notebook paper. The bale of aluminum is 1,500 pounds, while the one of tin cans is 1,800 pounds."

I followed Mr. Fritz down the main drop-off area that had multiple trucks dropping off trash items, and I noticed dozens of carpets along the driveway.

"Here you can see one of our innovative ideas," Fritz nodded toward the carpets. "We get so many carpets so we put some of them here to clean the trucks' tires that leave so the trash on their tires won't wash into the Bay."

Other innovative ideas Mr. Fritz pointed out along the way were mattresses that were brought in to be either recycled or striped down for the raw material and having three large donating bins to organize all the used—but still clean—clothing.

Dispatch Room

Then, he led me to the dispatch room, where I had a bird's eye view of the separation rooms. Up there, I could see the giant pits that are twenty feet deep. Employees use bulldozers or brooms to push piles of general trash to seven-ton garbage trucks that will drive to a landfill to dump out the trash.

"We used to bury the trash by alternating dirt and trash, but the toxic chemicals leaked from this landfill and contaminated the [San Francisco] Bay," Fritz explained in the dispatch room. "Now, we use conveyor belts to organize the trash as much as we can and bury what we really can't recycle in landfills lined with plastic liner."

Fremont's facility has two main conveyor belts. The smaller conveyor belt is for curbside recycling with newspapers, plastic bottles, tins, and aluminum, which are all separated by four different cages. The larger and more recently built conveyor belt is for business-sized cardboard and plastic. The bins separating the recyclables in this conveyor belt is more flexible and depends on what is brought in.

As we watch the bulldozers push the trash inside the pits, I noticed several things.

  • In the general trash pile, there are many things that I can see that can be recycled. "Up to 60% of the trash in this pile is recyclable," said Fritz, "but it's so mixed and wet that it can't be retrieved, so we have to transfer the trash to the landfills. What residents can do is separate their trash before it comes to the facility to keep things out of the landfills."
  • There are dozens of sprinklers hung on wires above the piles'. "The spray wets the dust in the air and weighs it down, so employees don't have to inhale too much. It also contains an odorant so the main floor doesn't smell that bad."
  • There is also an earthquake-like rumble. "The employees on the main drop-off floor won't be able to tell if there's an earthquake, but up here, we can feel it."

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Room

Rack of paint, cleaning supplies, and cooking oil, available to the public in the Household Hazardous Waste RoomRack of paint, cleaning supplies, and cooking oil, available to the public in the Household Hazardous Waste RoomFrom the dispatch room, we climbed down the steps, walked around the building into the HHW room, where the facility collects hazardous waste such as paint, car oil, pesticides, electronics, and cleaning supplies.

There were about a hundred paint cans, cleaning supply bottles, and cooking oil cans sitting on a rack on one side against the wall. The cans and bottles on this rack contain old paint that people bring in that they ended up not using and cleaning supplies that other people bring in. The facility requires the paint to contain full info, be usable, and non-toxic before being put on the shelf. Residents or businesses can take these unwanted supplies as a form of reusing, another form of the innovative ideas Fremont's HHW Facility has for the city.

"The cleaning supplies and cooking oil cans always disappear quickly," Fritz explained, "but the paint that's put on the shelves is usually white or beige-colored, so it usually stays on the shelf until somebody needs to paint a fence or something and doesn't care what color they use."

TVs and car oil in the Household Hazardous Waste roomTVs and car oil in the Household Hazardous Waste roomHe also elaborated on the new city ordinances for paint recycling. When you buy a can of paint, there is an extra seventy-five cents or so that is a redemption fee that is given back to you when you return the empty/semi-empty/completely-full paint can to Paint Care, which sends trucks to pick up the paint cans so Fremont will not paying for it. This is a prime example of producer responsibility. The paint manufacturers take responsibility for the entire process, from making and selling the product to recycling the residual product.

Fremont's HHW Facility collects not only cans of paint and miscellaneous cleaning and cooking supplies but also old electronics such as computer monitors, TVs, and cable wires.

"These electronics also have a redemption fee," Fritz pointed out. "Old electronics tend to contain mercury or lead that is hazardous to children, so we have to take them in to properly dispose of the lead."


To answer my questions: how does Fremont organize its trash and what do the Fremont Recycling & Transfer Station and Household Hazardous Waste Facilities do?

This facility doesn't actually recycle the trash brought in; it simply separates it as much as possible and transfers it to businesses and landfills. The facility accepts cardboard, paper, aluminum, tin, e-waste, yard waste, general trash, and household hazardous waste.

There are large conveyor belts and employees who separate the recyclables, and then there are machines that compress it all together into individual bales of cardboard, paper, aluminum, and tin.

Residents can help by separating their trash from the recyclables; about 60% of what goes to the landfill is recyclable, but most of it is too wet and mixed to separate.

There is recently a city-wide ordinance on paint called the Paint Recycling Act that adds a redemption fee to the price of the paint that pays for the recycling of the used paint. This is a prime example of producer responsibility.

Photo Credits: Sophia Chan

More about the Household Hazardous Waste Facility can be found here:

More about the Fremont Recycling and Transfer Station can be found here:

Pallavi Sherikar Wins Green Star Student Award

Tim Bremner and Pallavi SherikarTim Bremner and Pallavi SherikarIrvington High School junior Pallavi Sherikar was honored as the 2012 Bay Area Schools Environmental Conference's Green Star Student of the Year at a ceremony in San Jose on Saturday, February 4th 2012.

Pallavi was recognized for her leadership establishing a Youth Advisory Board for EarthTeam, a Berkeley based environmental non-profit organization. She blogs as Dr. Green for the EarthTeam Environmental News Network and was previously honored as the EarthTeam student of the month in October, 2011.

Pallavi also serves as the District Policy Committee Head for FIERCE (FremonIans Enabling Real Change in the Environment)- a intra-district club with representatives from schools across Fremont.

The City of San Jose, which hosted the events noted the following achievements while presenting the award:

Pallavi, now a junior, has been involved in environmental work since the end of her freshmen year. She started off by joining the district's environmental group F.I.E.R.C.E. (Fremont-Ians Enabling Real Change in the Environment). She is currently the District Policy Committee Head for FIERCE and works with this committee to change and implement different policies in the district that are more environmentally friendly. This past summer, Pallavi worked as an intern at EarthTeam and the Berkeley Ecology Center. At EarthTeam she worked on starting a Youth Advisory Board. While at the Ecology Center, she was given the opportunity to research more about Eco-Architecture. Pallavi is also part of EarthTeam's Green News program as the blogger Dr. Green. As Dr. Green, she answers any questions people may have about the environment. Pallavi has been an inspiration to the staff at EarthTeam -- she's a wonderful example of a youth taking leadership within the environmental movement in her own community.

Congratulations Pallavi Sherikar!