StopWaste at School


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Livermore High

Livermore High School has a long tradition of establishing creative systems to reduce waste, improve recycling and reuse materials. The school has won multiple grants to install indoor and outdoor recycling stations throughout the campus including hard to serve areas like the football stadium and gym. Livermore is the recipient of a Green California Partnership Career Academy grant to establish a green career pathway program for students and is working to expand participation in green practices by teachers, students and community members.

Hydration Strategies at Livermore High

Grant-funded classroom water pitchers. (Photo credit, Stephen Bailey)Grant-funded classroom water pitchers. (Photo credit, Stephen Bailey)At Livermore High, science teacher Stephen Bailey has created a small economy working with student clubs to collect and redeem plastic bottles and aluminum cans, yet one of his main goals is to put himself out of business. To that end, Bailey hopes to eliminate waste before it starts.

Recently, students in Bailey's class studied access to clean drinking water on campus. They found that although many classrooms have access to water faucets, not all had fountains, and many fountains were either unclean, or otherwise inconvenient to use. To address the problem, students wrote a grant application to the Altamont Education Advisory Board for funding to purchase Brita water pitchers. Participating classrooms keep full pitchers of water available for students to drink during class.

Reusable tumblers are sold on campus for $5.00Reusable tumblers are sold on campus for $5.00The school's ASB Leadership class sold reusable/refillable cups branded with Livermore High's mascot to further promote the waste reduction message and provide a container for students to fill from the new pitchers.

Additional stainless steel water bottles were provided by Livermore Unified School District's conservation consultant David Darlington who received a grant from the city's water supplier to provide the bottles to all freshmen at the two high schools.

While students were tackling the issue at Livermore High, a teacher at Granada High (also in Livermore) won a grant to install a hydration station on campus. The station replaces an existing water fountain with a new device that includes a traditional fountain as well as a bottle filling function. Because the manufacturer of the hydration station was offering a two for one deal, the school district was able to purchase two stations and install one at Livermore High.

Refilling at the Hydration StationRefilling at the Hydration StationThe new device, installed in the 300 wing of campus, includes a digital counter that measures how many single use disposable plastic bottles were conserved by refilling reusable containers instead. In the first month and a half of the school year, over 7,000 bottles were eliminated from the waste/recycling stream as students filled approximately 200 bottles per day at this station.

Bailey is working with his students and campus administration to develop a plan to install new hydration stations across the campus. "Our next target is the gym- we see a lot of plastic water bottles there during sporting events, hopefully this can help reduce some of that waste."

Additional information:

Live More, Save More engages Livermore High School Students

~Guest post by Cindy Moreno

Intern Sarah enrolls a Livermore resident in the Rewards ProgramIntern Sarah enrolls a Livermore resident in the Rewards ProgramThe Live More, Save More program is designed to help Livermore residents and businesses save energy and money while engaging students and supporting local economic development. The City of Livermore has partnered with Chevron Energy Solutions and Silicon Valley-based WattzOn to launch this innovative sustainability program which is expected to save taxpayers nearly 10 million over the next 25 years.

Livermore High School students have the unique opportunity to serve as Energy Interns for The Live More, Save More program. The interns' main focus is engaging residents in energy conservation and assisting in enrollment. Live More, Save More aims to help residents and businesses identify free and low-cost ways to save up to 20% on their utility bills. The program also rewards residents who save 1% on gas or electric bills by entering them into a monthly raffle for a $50 or $100 gift card to participating Livermore Downtown stores. To enroll, residents simply visit to answer a few questions about their home and connect their PG&E account.

Thus far the Live More, Save More program has trained 18 Livermore High School students. Students go through more than 12 hours of training and testing, and serve as home energy coaches under the supervision of WattzOn energy consultants. The training sessions serve to develop the students' abilities to conduct in-person energy consultations, lead outreach initiatives and garner professional skill sets pertinent to the evolving clean tech industry and transferable to future careers. Not only do students gain relevant work experience through paid internships but they also aid their community in capturing energy savings through low cost and no cost solutions.

Student Energy Blog

The Energy Interns are featured in a blog on The Student Blog shares their insight and experiences throughout the internship. "We all are eager to help our community save energy and money. I could not have asked to work at a better place than with the Live More, Save More program. I am part of a great team here at the Capacity Project. I invite all of the Livermore community to learn what we interns are talking about and get a consultation with one of our energy coaches," said Sarah Dreher, one of the newest energy interns.

To learn more about the Live More, Save More program visit or follow Live More, Save More on Twitter and like them on Facebook to get the latest energy saving tips and program news.

Happy Energy Savings!

AP Environmental Science Compostability Study

AP Environmental Science Compost StudyAP Environmental Science Compost StudyStudents in Stephen Bailey's classes at Livermore High School are getting their hands dirty. To help introduce the AP Environmental Science course, the veteran science teacher challenges students to test the compostability and degradability of a range of materials. "It serves as an introduction to the scientific method, of observation, testing a hypothesis, being careful with a control, writing solid measureable observations, writing in the lab book, and sticking with a long-term investigation," explains Bailey.

In the first week of school, students choose an item commonly found in the garbage or littered on campus. Each item is tagged with the student's name and tied with a length of green yard, then buried or placed in the sun in a garden space outside the classroom. "Some students are testing compostability by burying their item underground and others are interested in photo-degradation- the process of items breaking down in the sun," says Bailey.

Student retrieving and item for observationStudent retrieving and item for observationEvery two weeks, students retrieve and examine their item. Using their lab books, students record observations. Bailey encourages students to make their own discoveries, often employing a socratic method to challenge assumptions and push discovery. "This is really an inquiry process. I don't have a data collection sheet or a pre-determined set of measurements students must take. Instead, I ask how they will know if something has changed for their item."

"I let students fail to have a measureable hypothesis, so they learn to do a better job next time. A restart is possible when using such a long time span for the activity. One student buried an apple, and it was dug up and consumed by a visiting nocturnal organism by the first two week observaton. So we will try burying an apple under a big rock next time."

Students carefully record changes in color, texture, and mass. Many have also pinned a "control" copy of their item to the classroom wall to observe differences between an item kept in the climate-controlled atmosphere of the classroom compared to items exposed to the elements outdoors.

Control items hang in the classroomControl items hang in the classroomJust one month in to the investigation which will span seven months, students are finding many surprising results.  While many hypothesized that compostable items such as paper would lose mass as they break down, initial measurements show that many items are actually heavier now than when the project started. One student noticed that the gum wrapper she was studying felt slightly damp and attributes the gain in mass to added moisture from the soil. Other students speculate that items might gain mass as micro-organisms attach themselves to compostable materials.

As students experiment, they are also diving right in to their AP Environmental Science text book, reading a chapter about solid and hazardous waste management, hearing from guest speakers, and monitoring the school's recycling program. As students make their observations of each item, Bailey offers impromptu composting demonstrations and lessons in the school's compost pile. Pitchfork in hand, Bailey points out the fungi and invertebrates that are breaking down landscape clippings into new soil outside the science lab.

A stone cat guards a dead rat.A stone cat guards a dead rat.Bailey, a master of the "teachable moment," finds many opportunities to connect real world examples with the waste management theme in class. Recently, a loudspeaker announcement on campus called for a custodian to clear a trap that caught a rat on campus. Bailey raced to collect the rodent and students have buried it in soil (under a large stone cat sculpture) to monitor its decomposition.

On another day, students observed that the concrete sidewalks were covered with black spots of gum. With the suggestion that the campus run a "gum-redemption" program to pay students for returning scraped gum to the science department, Bailey asks students to collect and weigh samples of dried gum. At just over 1 gram each, a lively debate erupts in class about how much to pay to incentivize the scraping and collection of gum from campus sidewalks.

Investigations and observations related to the waste stream on campus will continue throughout the class's two-trimester span.

Hand Dryer Installed to Help Cut Waste

Hand Dryer at Livermore HighHand Dryer at Livermore HighPut your hands in, and this device blows air over your hands drying them off, as you pull your hands back out.

This $1800 device was donated to Livermore High School, and was recently installed in the girls bathroom in the 400 hall. If all works as planned, students will dry their washed hands using the AirBlade instead of using paper towels.

The production and disposal of paper towels is costly to our environment. Trees are cut from the Boreal Forest, and shipped to the paper mill. Paper is manufactured, and shipped to local distributors.

The school district purchases, warehouses, and distributes paper towels for the custodians. Custodians install rolls of paper towels, only to pick them up off the floor or from the waste bin at the end of the day. The used paper towels are then hauled off to the compactor, then to the landfill. All these steps, from cutting the trees, to burning fossil fuels for transportation, to hauling to the landfill can be eliminated by using the AirBlade.

There are natural questions about the AirBlade's use of electricity. The AirBlade does not heat the air, but rather propels air rapidly over your hands using very little electricity. It is like putting your hand in a windstorm. But the amount of electricity is similar to running your vacuum cleaner for twelve seconds. Not much.

According to Livermore High teacher, Stephen Bailey, the dryer should save two large rolls of paper towels each week which would have other wise cost the district about $450 per year. The manufacturer of the dryer estimates that it will consume about $30 worth of electricity per year, so the overall savings should add up quickly.

Bailey is excited about the possibility of installing more dryers across the campus, noting that there was a learning curve for district maintenance and operations staff who had to navigate ADA accessibility, wiring a dedicated circuit, and other code concerns. It took about seven months to clear all the hurdles, but the lessons learned from this installation will make the next ones easier.

The overall operating cost of the AirBlade will be much less than the cost of supplying paper towels. This will save trees, save money, and it will save time of the custodians. A win-win-win!

Republished from The LHS Recycling Blog

See a life cycle analysis summary comparing paper towels and electric dryers here:

Recycling Station Tune-Up

Student teams refurbish diversion stationsStudent teams refurbish diversion stationsLivermore High's AP Environment Science students were urged to select a project where they can "Think Globally, but act Locally," and to, "Make a difference." This project involved the difficult task of breathing new life into the school's aging recycling stations. Many of the recycle stations are approaching seven years old. These stations have been on campus longer than any of the current students. They have have been heavily used and have been sitting out in the elements.

So, repair and maintenance is in order.

  • The signs have faded, and are being replaced.
  • Some doors broke off, and have been found, and reinstalled.
  • The plastic seams were broken on some, and were reglued.
  • The locks were broken or bent, and were replaced with the redesigned wooden latch.
  • Some doors warped, and were adjusted to fit again.
  • Some stations have been used as skateboard jumps, and needed to be sanded.
  • Most recyclers just get dirty and nasty, and must be scraped, sprayed off, and wiped down.

This turned out to be a huge, dirty job, but these guys are getting it done!

Whenever a person walks by room S4, one of these stations is sitting along side of the building "in-the-process" of being fixed up. Each station has different needs, but looking around campus, most of the stations look pretty good, and very functional, thanks to the work of these AP Environmental Science students.

New Signs

Making Bin LabelsMaking Bin LabelsLaminated images and written instructions have been added to the recycling stations. Every effort has been made to keep therecycling stations intuitive, and easy to use.  "Compost" is a clear message to some people, and perhaps not to everyone. To help users know where to put apple cores, or milk cartons, or the remnant of their sandwich, we have added new labels.

Big images of fruit or milk cartons lure the student to the correct bin. When the student gets closer to the "COMPOST" sign, the simple written instructions help confirm they are at the right place. Just under, "COMPOST" is the small print, "food scraps and milk-cartons"  please."

"Can I recycle my engine oil here? It says recycling!"

Recycling's Fine PrintRecycling's Fine PrintNo engine oil recycling right here. But Livermore Sanitation will collect engine oil from residences.

So, what material should go in the "Recycling" bin?  On the LHS campus outdoor recycle stations, the "Recycling" sign means plastic bottles and aluminum cans. The school is working to remove aluminum and plastic from the waste stream headed to the landfill. Paper, cardboard, batteries, eye-glasses, ink cartridges are all recycled somewhere else on campus.

Compost LabelCompost LabelTo clarify the message, students improved thesignage. Plastic bottles and aluminum cans are "low-hanging-fruit", meaning they are an easy first-step to reducing the waste stream. Plastic and aluminum are also important because they have a decent redemption value, which encourages student clubs to help collect plastic and aluminum from these bins and earn money for their club.

The Recycling side of the stations now have picrures of water bottles and aluminum cans. To reduce the amount of odd entries in the Recycling slot, students added "plastic bottles and aluminum cans, please". Adding "please" just sounded less bossy.

Republished from The LHS Recycling Blog