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Re-Schooling It!

Letting students lead the way in recycling

  • Over 78% of school waste could be diverted from the trash to organics composting and container/paper recycling collection programs.

  • 50% of school waste could be managed via organics composting programs that accept food waste, liquids, and non-recyclable paper.

  • The single-most common material generated by schools was food waste—23.9% of the total waste generate.

  • Recyclable paper (cardboard, white office paper, and mixed paper) accounted for 23.5% of the total waste generated by schools.

  • The schools had an average per capita total waste generation of just over half a pound per day.

  • By extrapolation, this means Minnesota K-12 public schools generate an estimated 483,520 pounds of waste per day.

*MN Pollution Control Agency “Digging Deep through School Trash - A waste composition analysis” Sept. 2010

Minnesota schools do their best to reduce waste, recycle what they can and make do with what they have; however, it can be time-consuming and expensive to keep up with it all. I found great stories about programs implemented to compost food waste, collect unneeded papers to recycle and sending used printer cartridges to be be reused - is there more that can be done? Why don't we ask the students.

Recycling Initiative

It is inspiring when young members of the community see a need, then organize to implement solutions; what a perfect teaching moment for both teachers and students! Several years ago, a good friend of mine decided it was time to start an Environmental Club at the local high school. Tony Johannson was teaching Spanish at Albert Lea High School when he got into a discussion with students regarding their concerns about the environment. He could see how passionate they were about it, so he agreed to help them start a club dedicated to helping create more awareness of the environment in the community. Tony has since moved on to join the Peace Corp (stationed in Paraguay) and is now involved in global efforts to improve the environment - what a positive impact he has had on those students who started this journey with him.

Hoang Tran, science teacher, stepped in as supervisor for the Albert Lea Environmental Awareness Club (ALEAC), so I asked him to share a few questions with the group. I had planned to visit them myself, but each day they were scheduled to meet turned into a snow event. Welcome to Minn-e-snow-da! Here is what they shared with me via email:

1. The members had a variety reasons for joining this club, but the main reason came down to protecting the earth/making a difference. One young lady is planning to continuing her involvement in environmentalism because "it is the biggest issue of our time."

2. Club activities for the group this year included a recycle/reuse video for Christmas wrapping and gift materials and creating an example board for segregating trash in the school cafeteria. They also toured a local recycling center for better understanding of the work done and challenges faced in working with reusable waste. Finally, they are interested in starting a community garden for growing locally produced food in the future.

3. The goals for the ALEAC this year centered on raising awareness of local waste problems and growing respect for the earth. One member plans to extend her experiences into building a career in environmental studies, so this group is producing strong, young advocates for a greener future already!

4. The students hope to teach others to, "be aware of the impact a person and community have on the environment," and promote positive, environmentally conscious behavior that everyone can learn to help out.

A BIG thank you to Mr. Tran and the ALEAC at Albert Lea High School for answering my questions and doing good things in the community to promote a greener world. Every effort and idea helps out in ways that, big or small, make a difference. Keep up the good fight!


Did you know...?

Here are some odd things that you may not have known could be recycled - and now we have been schooled!



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