Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Zero Waste Parent Night Success!

Recently I hosted a Zero Waste Parent Night at our school and I'm happy to report it was a huge success! The parent night came about because I was a person in need. As I've talked about before, I'm one of the school's leaders when it comes to our efforts to become more green. 

My team came up with this "Are you sure?" viral campaign,
and Liz and her kids made these giant signs. It really got the
kids talking. Later we introduced smaller signs throughout
the school with the same message. A week later we added
the terracycle items to the signs so that people would get the
message, "Are you sure that you're putting your trash where
it belongs?" It's been a great success!
Beyond serving on my school's Zero Waste Team, I am the originator and the person in charge of all of my school's terracycling efforts. If you haven't heard of terracycling, check out some of my previous posts or read about it on the website
The other members of my team all have their own projects. Liz handles the k-cups and misc. plastics, Ron handles the curbside recyclables and helps with misc. plastics, and Brenda has us all working on reducing our paper towel usage and trains kids to become Earth Heroes! 

My team has also eliminated the use of plastic utensils in the school. Kids eat breakfast in our classrooms, and for some reason every kid that buys breakfast used to get this little spork with a straw and napkin in a plastic wrapper. Half the time the breakfast was a toaster strudel and the spork, straw, napkin, and plastic went right into the trash can. What a pointless waste! Now the kids get a piece of real silverware and we collect them in the room and then return them to the cafeteria for washing. So simple!

We also pulled a sneaky trick on our fellow teachers! This year when everyone came back from summer vacation, a little change had occurred. Maybe they didn't even notice...but all of their trash cans had been replaced with smaller ones! We're sending the message, "You shouldn't NEED a giant trash can."

Look what we are getting installed with some
of that saved money! Filtered water bottle
refilling stations are going into each of my
school's hallways! Hurray for even less waste!
These are just a couple of our victories. Our total combined efforts have led to us being able to cut our dumpster tipping down from 5 days a week to just 2! That saves our school district over $250 a month in garbage collection fees! Not to mention all the diesel involved in hauling our trash to the landfill for 3 less days!

How did we get here? Well, it started small. For me, it all started about 5 years ago when I introduced my students (at that time I was teaching 1st/2nd grade multi-age) to our new service learning project and we began collecting ziploc bags and juice pouches at my school. That year I considered our efforts to be wildly successful. We collected a lot of stuff, did a lot of math, wrote some great persuasive pieces about which charities should get the money we earned, etc. Ron and Brenda has their own individual things going on too. Finally, we decided to join forces! Our principal has been a strong supporter of our efforts, and even gives us some covered half-days to do some of our work! 

See all our awards?! Our Zero Waste Zone is located front
and center in our school's lobby! As soon as you walk in
you know how serious we are about going green!
Fast forward to the present...we have now greatly expanded our efforts, and combined them with the efforts of my fellow teachers in other "green" endeavors. We now collect elmer's glue products, plastic tape dispensers, solo cups, dairy tubs, used markers, toothpaste tubes and brushes, and of course...the dreaded juice pouch.

I had four giant bags like this one just
full to the brim with rotten juice
pouches. Yuck!
Now, this is where the trouble starts. The students in my school have become AWESOME at terracycling. That means that instead of the 10-15 pouches a day we used to collect, we are now collecting closer to a hundred or so each day. Each one of those pouches has at least half a sip of juice in them that need to be squeezed out. Sometimes they're half full of juice! :( 

Before you know it a week has gone by and we haven't had time to squeeze the pouches. Fruit flies come for a visit. Juice ferments. Gross. Now that they're nice and gross, no one wants to squeeze them, so they just pile up more and more! Aagh!

So, I decided to host an hour long event after school one evening to have parents come and do the dirty work! I also had a few other teachers, kids, and interns stop by to help. By the end of the hour we had completely caught up on all of the nasty juice pouches! 

We stuffed this huge box with all of the now empty and flattened pouches. When I took it to ship it, it weighed over 45 pounds! That's going to go a long way towards making some money that my kids will give to various charities at the end of the year!

As a bonus, I had parents come and catch up on my colleague's pet project...k-cups. Did you know that k-cups are becoming a HUGE waste concern? The really horrible thing about that is that they shouldn't be! The foil top and plastic cup are recyclable, and the coffee grounds and filters are compostable! K-cups should be a zero waste item...but most people just throw them away! We collect them at my school instead!

Liz's class weighed up the waste we kept out of the landfill.
I'm pretty impressed with the amount of work we got done in just one hour. I wasn't sure that any parents would come to be honest! It's nice to know there are parents out there that care enough about our school's efforts and our planet to take some time to help!

What are you doing at your school to help conservation efforts? It can be a lot of work, but it's worth it!

And lastly, have you heard about the TpT Sale going on? You can get 28% off everything over a dollar in my store! Now's a great time to grab up some stuff to end this year with a bang, or to get ready for next year! I hope you'll stop by my store and give it a look!


  1. This is so awesome!! We are slowly moving toward this direction! I love how you made it a whole community effort by involving parents!! Kudos to your and your school!

  2. That is awesome, Nick!! The higher shipping minimum and the fermenting pouches made them the first thing I cut from my school. I just couldn't handle the ick factor. I might have to show this post to our science teacher, who is runs the science club and is the recycling queen!

  3. You are amazing!! This post is so cool!!!!

  4. WOW! I am so incredibly impressed!!!

  5. This is awesome! Real silverware? I think that's awesome but I know my school would totally turn me down. :(

  6. Nick, this is absolutely amazing! I have been teaching my combined 4th/5th grade science class all about our environmental impact and how we can prevent pollution, prevent our landfills from filling up, using green energy etc. I am so totally going to share all the amazing things your school is doing with my science kiddos.

  7. Awesome job! You are truly a leader at your school!
    Have a great week,
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  8. What great ideas!! I love these and would totally love to be able to do this at my school!! Thank you for the inspiration for the new school year!!!

    Mrs. 3rd Grade 

  9. I'm kind of inspired by you Nick. I might have to bring this up at school. I'm a little jealous of your water bottle filling stations.


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