Sustain DCSD Earth Week Celebration

Day 3: Waste

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DCSD Celebrates Earth Week: Waste Reduction at Cougar Run Elementary

Waste Reduction and Diversion

Imagine taking the entire waste produced by a school for an entire day from every classroom, the cafeteria, etc. You weigh it, then dump it out on a tarp and sort it by where it should go: recycling, landfill, and compost. Then you weigh each waste stream again to see where you might be able to improve.


  • Is there a lot of recycling being put in the landfill? If so, you might need to improve your recycling education.
  • Do you see lots of plastic snack baggies? Maybe you could set up a collection for snack baggies to be taken in to a local retailer that recycles plastic grocery bags.
  • Do you see a food waste problem, especially with vegetables and fruits? You could start a food donation program or composting to reduce how much food ends up in the landfill.


This data collection process is what we call a waste audit. About 30 of our schools conduct these waste audits with their students, once at the beginning of the waste reduction program and once at the end. This provides students and teachers with data to identify the problem, develop solutions and an action plan, and to measure their success at the end of the initiative.


Cougar Run Elementary has an excellent model for waste initiatives, organized by parent Kim Bartels. Every year, the student-led green team runs an all-school waste audit. Each grade level starts with a baseline moving into a school-wide Waste Free Lunch Challenge. The grade level with the most success in waste reduction from the pre- to post- audit wins.


Recently, Lone Tree Elementary second graders Ava, Avenly, and Hannah wanted to make a difference for the environment. They saw too much litter being thrown around the school, so they launched a Litterless Lunch campaign. With the help of Mrs. Gibson, Mrs. Tucker, and Sustainability Coordinator Mrs. Kuntz, they were able to host their very first, and highly successful litterless lunch this spring!


If you want to tackle the issue of waste, here are a couple tips:

  1. Learn what can and can’t be recycled. This website is a great resource for how to recycle properly: http://recycleoftenrecycleright.com/resources/.

  2. If you are at an elementary school, Green Up Our Schools is a great program with a rolling application that provides a grant of $2,000 over three years to help you reduce waste. DCSD currently has 11 schools participating!

  3. Consider hosting a textile recycling box on your school grounds. Through Red Apple Recycling, 20 DCSD schools have diverted over 80,000 pounds of textiles from the landfill this school year while earning money for their sustainability programs.