8 Steps to a Trash Free School: An Overview

Download the Trash Free Schools Guidebook and follow along with the 8 steps.

pledge signing 2 (1)*Step 1. Review the Guidebook and Sign the Trash Free Schools PledgeGuidebook p.7
Have your school’s Principal and the Green Team Leader sign the Pledge and submit it to us to show your school’s commitment to reducing waste.

*Step 2. Form a Green Team – Guidebook p.9
A Green Team is a group of students, teachers, and school staff that develop ideas and manage actions at your school. Gathering a team helps build support and keeps momentum going from year to year.

Step 3. Complete a Baseline Assessment and Choose a Tracking System – Guidebook p.10
These activities will help you measure your success and identify opportunities to reduce waste at your school.

recycling bin (1)Step 4. Create an Action Plan – Guidebook p.13
Use the results of your Baseline Assessment to create an Action Plan for your school to reduce waste. With the Trash Free Schools Project, your school has the flexibility to decide how to accomplish your waste reduction goals.
For suggestions and tools to develop and implement your Action Plan, visit the Trash Free Schools Resource Center and view our activities, curriculum, and engagement advice.

Step 5. Organize a Kickoff Event – Guidebook p.15
A Kickoff Event should educate your school about the Trash Free Schools Project, your waste reduction goals, and how the school community can help. Plan a Kickoff Event that fits your school; consider getting the whole school involved with a fun event or assembly, announcements, or newsletter articles.

Step 6. Take Action – Guidebook p.16
Implement your Action Plan and monitor your efforts regularly. Have fun and stay inspired by incorporating your efforts into activities and curricula, and sharing what you are doing with others.

While the path of every Trash Free School will be different, all Action Plans should include aspects of the following:

Motivate the members of your school community to take action by teaching them about the importance of waste reduction. Inform the students, administration, staff, and parents about how and why they should get involved.
Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Recycling is a popular way many schools reduce waste, yet there are many other things schools can do to become trash free. Rethinking your choices, reducing trash and reusing products are also important solutions that reduce waste.

Reduce Litter 
Find ways to educate and engage your school on the issue of litter. Consider launching a Litter Prevention Campaign, having a schoolyard cleanup, and joining us for our Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup.

Step 7. Celebrate – Guidebook p.32
Near the end of the year, hold a celebration event to recognize your efforts and gather feedback from your school about your successes and what can be improved for next year.

**Step 8. End-of-Year Evaluation (Report Card) – Guidebook p.33
Before the end of the year, meet with your Green Team to review the progress you made, discuss what you learned, and make plans for next year.
Share your efforts with us by filling out the annual Report Card (required)  and sending photos or videos to [email protected]. Also, let us know if you would like to write a guest blog post for our Trash Free Schools Blog.

Sorting Recyclables 1BONUS: Green Purchasing
Earn bonus points on your Report Card  by implementing a Green Purchasing Policy at your school. With each purchasing decision, your school has the opportunity to support environmentally friendly choices and choose trash free options.

Wondering what you need to track for each step? Click here.

The 8 steps are designed to be completed in order. Schools continuing from a previous year will start with step 4 and build on the actions from the year before.

*Steps 1 and 2 are required to become a Trash Free School. Step 1 (Sign the Pledge) is repeated only if a school’s Principal changes; the new Principal will need to sign the Trash Free Schools Pledge.

**Submitting the Report Card (Step 8) is required at the end of every school year.