What can schools do to reduce end-of-school-year waste and improve recycling? Everyone at school – students, staff, faculty, and custodians – has a role. A school green team or environmental club can lead some of the following activities that help a school stay true to its waste reduction commitment.
Hold a “zero waste” locker clean-out
- Designate a day for students to clean out their lockers and sort the contents for swapping, reusing, donating, and recycling so that as little as possible is thrown away.
- Let the custodians know of your plans so they can be aware of the effect on garbage and recycling containers.
- Gather some boxes (ask the kitchen staff). Label one Swap or Reuse, label another Donation, and label a third Recycle. Make the swap boxes more specific by separating out spaces for pencils and pens, notebooks, teacher supplies, and other items.
- Find a teacher, staff member, or parent who will take the materials for donation as well as any leftovers from the swap to your local thrift store or other organization.
- Assign students to take the materials for recycling to a central or outdoor bin.
- Plan a school supply swap day among teachers for a subsequent day.
Donate food from school kitchens
- Ask kitchen staff to identify food whose use-by dates will occur over the summer.
- Contact a local nonprofit with a food recovery program, such as Food Lifeline or Harvest Northwest.
- Coordinate a pick-up of food donations using these guidelines.
Celebrate the end of the school year with a waste-free party in your classroom! Here are some useful tips to plan your party.
- Plan ahead to have clearly marked waste disposal bins.
- Minimize food waste by buying in bulk, using compostable serving ware, and making a plan to take home leftovers.
- Many store-bought decorations have plastic on them – make your own paper or cloth decorations and use them again next year.
- Get more tips here.
Plan for next year
Will the same teacher, custodian, or other staff member continue to lead your school’s Green Team group next year? Will some students continue next year while others will move to a different school? Leave records of what your group accomplished this year so projects can be replicated in the future. Make sure those records are easy for next year’s group leader to find.
Congratulations on your waste reduction progress this school year. Have a wonderful summer!