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. 

Memorial Garden Blooms at Irvington

For at least 10 years, students at Irvington High School tried- and failed- to create a garden outside the 200-wing of campus. Kelly Kong was determined to be the first to succeed.

"That area of campus really bothered me," explains Kelly, "It was hard-packed dirt and ice plant that trapped trash. It didn't look good, and I knew we could do better."

Not everyone was convinced, however. Multiple campus beautification efforts had attempted to plant a wider variety of flowers, but all died in the rocky/sandy dirt. None were able to survive a summer without regular watering. The grounds supervisor told Kelly that the invincible and invasive ice plant was the best solution for the area.

"To convince him that I was serious, I promised to come back and re-plant the ice plant if our efforts failed," says Kelly. As planning for the garden was underway, the Irvington community was shaken by the death of a student. Quickly, the idea of establishing a Memorial Garden sprang to life- as did the importance of succeeding.


Working with the school garden club, Kelly and her peers reached out to Curtis Tom, a local master gardener and community volunteer. Tom helped the students develop a landscape plan for low-water, Bay-Friendly, plant selections and advised the students to install rock barriers to protect newly planted seedlings from getting trampled.

"It was a bit of a shock to learn that our garden would cost over $1,000!" exclaimed Kelly. "I never knew that rocks could be so expensive." Proceeds from on-campus recycling efforts helped pay for most of the materials and plants.

30 garden club members and volunteers from Fremont's other high schools removed the ice plant, tilled soil and planted the garden in the spring of 2011. Plants were grouped according to water needs, with "thirstier" plants located strategically near rainwater downspouts.

Student volunteers watered and trimmed the garden over the summer to ensure that the plants were well established, resulting in a beautiful, peaceful garden just outside the classroom windows on the west edge of campus.

‎"The staff keep asking me, 'Who made such a beautiful garden? That is quite a sight!'" reports Clint Johns, a faculty advisor to many student initiated green projects on campus.  "I told them it was all student work- they did an excellent job!"

What does Kelly think about the garden now? "One of my favorite things about the new garden is that it attracts humming birds. They show up about the same time every day. Just this week I witnessed the most epic battle- two humming birds used their beaks like swords and fought over a flower."

Pallavi Sherikar - EarthTeam October 2011 Student of the Month

~ Republished from EarthTeam ~

Pallavi SherikarPallavi SherikarPallavi, now a junior at Irvington High School, 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.

E-Waste Event At Irvington January 15

E-Waste FlyerE-Waste FlyerOn January 15th, Irvington High School's High Tech Militia Club will host an E-Waste Collection and Fund Raiser.

Over the last 4 years, Irvington students have helped to divert 215,000 pounds of e-waste from landfills and used the funds from the events to help support energy efficient technology upgrades on campus that have helped cut energy use by 30%.

Click the flyer to the left for details.

For more information about Irvington's E-Waste diversion, click here.


Here is the text of our recently submitted recycling grant application:

Our project's purpose is to provide a student-driven education campaign on our school site about the school's waste reduction systems. We have established a school site waste reduction team (made up of both students and teachers). Our teacher team members engage their students in service-learning through curriculum-based projects. Through the campus outreach program, students develop their voice and leadership skills. One of our aims is to reduce recyclables from needlessly being thrown into the waste stream while increasing campus beautification.

Our target audience is our school community, made up of both students and staff who throw away too many recyclables. According to an anonymous student survey that we conducted last month, 75.2% report they recycle at home, yet only 63.2% recycle at school. Only 52.6% of our students say they placed their last plastic bottle in a recycling bin. The "location of the recycling bin is the biggest influence on why [students] would or would not recycle at school" according to 49.6% of the student's responses. We are optimistic that students will recycle more when given the opportunity.

We are trying to raise awareness and opportunity on campus so that recycling is instinctive. While we have increased classroom participation in recycling, once students and staff are outside the classroom, habits of recycling decrease. Many students (40.6%) reported that the "most important thing [they believe our] school needs in order to have a more affective recycling program" is "more clearly labeled bins in classrooms or outside." We will strategically place these outside near trash bins to encourage a "habit of mind."

Ultimately, we feel we will be most successful when we can separate recycling bins for paper, plastic, glass, and cans. We are also working to build a partnership with the City of Fremont and Allied Waste so that as our recycling habits and rates change, so will our scheduled pick-ups.

As of last year, we recycled 30% of our total tonnage.

We know we can be better than this. High schools with similar communities and sizes in our district recycled twice as much as we did.

This leaves us with tremendous room for growth. One of the reasons students and staff do not recycle as much as they could is because they do not know where to throw out their beverage containers. If there are more containers, we will use them!

We educated staff during in-service days, staff meetings, and placed bulletin announcements as needed. We will continue to do more of this as our project grows. We are in contact with our local media and will have ongoing coverage of waste reduction through our school newspaper, radio, and local tri-city newspaper. Staff and students are now actively participating in the recycling program. Our student groups have already designed brightly colored t-shirts and will soon be wearing them to help further promote this cause on campus.

Irvington High School has a contract with Allied Waste and the Fremont Transfer Station, which collect both recyclables and nonrecyclables twice a week. The Service Learning Waste Reduction Project (SLWRP) team on campus separates those recyclables with CRV from those without and use it to fund other recycling endeavors on campus. The SLWRP team is comprised of the Youth Advisory Board, Environmental Club, environmental advisories, and key teachers on campus. The students have organized themselves to pick up recycling bins twice a week from classrooms and select outdoor areas where the limited bins we do have are located.

Our 2 white bins which are 3 yard containers are picked up twice a week and are nearly full each time (these containers primarily consist of cardboard and other papers) - this is based upon the recycling program we currently have in place for our classrooms where paper is a large consumable item. We also separate out six 50-gallon bags worth of bottles and cans from these classrooms on a weekly basis. Our school runs 2 semesters at 18 weeks each. Our recycling potential outside of the classroom around the cafeteria, in the courtyard, and in the hallways is hugely untapped for recycling which is why we are contacting you.

Since our school district makes it time and cost prohibitive for our custodians to recycle, we as teachers and students realize that a successful program relies upon a sustainable program based upon student and staff buy-in. We are building recycling into our [interdisciplinary] freshmen benchmark environmental change project, which will increase student participation, student habits, and campus culture on recycling at large. The number of clubs that have a service-learning component at our school is increasing as is their participation in the recycling program we currently have in place. Our key to a sustainable program at our campus is to have a student-driven, (SLWRP) teacher-led program, which we are well onto our way to achieving.

The key to a successful program is accessibility. Our goal is to have a 1:1 trash bin to recycling bin ratio at our school site, thus giving students the ability to make the correct decision to lessen their footprint. We are working to align our waste reduction practices with the Alameda County initiative to reduce waste by 40% by 2010. In the past, our biggest challenge was not having adequate resources to a sustainable recycling program, which contributed to a campus culture of inconsistent recycling. Now that we have begun implementing a sustainable program with increased resources, we have instituted a better-defined process for recycling. We have clear goals for next steps: with the money we make from recycling beverage containers, we plan on implementing a green bin program (composting) for our new cafeteria. This will especially impact our waste since we are going to a closed campus next year.

Submitted by: Clint Johns

Trash Pile

Our school's trash is BIG news according to the local paper and the City of Fremont! Starting Monday and ending Wednesday after school our DAILY trash from the halls and classrooms will be bagged up and piled up in the courtyard in the designated area. It's all part of the campus focus on trash reduction and recycling.Here's how it works:

  1. Students and staff will witness how much trash is generated on a DAILY basis.
  2. Teachers can incorporate the trash pile into a lesson, math, science, art, even social studies. Lesson plan ideas will be provided.
  3. Your SLWRP (waste reduction&recycling team) will assess how much of  our trash is recyclable.
  4. The City of Fremont supports our efforts and will be on hand Wednesday 10/31 for photos and handshakes.
  5. The Argus newspaper will be following the story as it unfolds.
  6. BENEFITS: Raised awareness about our recycling efforts, positive publicity in the press, a student and staff effort to improve our campuses appearance and further our culture of good stewards of this great land.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our custodial staff, the service learning club, the environmental club and the SLWRP team for their hard work in making this an historical event for the district and the mighty IHS.


Thank you for your time and patience.  

Scott Lewis
Service Learning Coordinator

Photos of the Trash pile: