By Laura Chamberlin, Trash Initiative Program Manager
What do students and teachers that visit Hard Bargain Farm do when they get back to their school? They are often inspired to take action, but they don’t know where to start. That’s where our Trash Free Schools project comes in. With the Guidebook and an online network, the Trash Free School Project gives teachers and students ideas, incentives, guidance, and structure to reduce their trash footprint on the watershed.
This year, we had nine schools take the leap. Schools have the flexibility to design their individual program that specifically works for them, focusing on the resources available and addressing the challenges they face.
The first steps are to form a green team and conduct a baseline assessment. Then they are able to establish an action plan, host a kick-off event, and most importantly take action. Anne Beers Elementary School, in Ward 7 of the District of Columbia, held a school-wide assembly to announce their participation in the program. That also served as the official start of recycling and as a critical piece of educating students, faculty, and staff in how they are involved in the process. Anne Beers Elementary is also leading the way in composting with a program that captures and composts the leftovers from the Breakfast in the Classroom program.
Brent Elementary School, also in the District of Columbia, had a different take on education: students made their own recycling signs so that the message was coming from peers. And it’s not just about recycling; Forest Heights Elementary does not currently have the infrastructure for recycling in the school, but that didn’t stop them from setting up re-use paper stations in each classroom. Most schools placed recycling bins in high traffic areas in addition to the classrooms. Student Green Teams of several schools walk the buildings each week to ensure that all materials are in their proper containers. Almost all schools also conducted either a Schoolyard Cleanup or a Cleanup at a nearby location, connecting the students to litter in their watershed.
To make sure that we can share the successes of these schools with others and reward the high achievers as well, the Trash Free Schools Report Card serves as the core component of Step 8 in the Guidebook: Evaluation. So far it looks that all schools are to be receiving high marks. We look forward to working with these schools next year and helping to build a network for sharing between them.
If you are interested in learning how your school can become a Trash Free School, please check out our website www.trashfreeschools.org.