The City of Bellevue and Bellevue School District challenged schools to reduce garbage in the cafeteria for America Recycles Day during the month of November.
The challenge was launched five years ago to encourage schools to create and implement a lunch waste reduction campaign during the first few weeks of November. This year, staff and students used many strategies to motivate including: student presentations, assemblies, posters, announcements, costumes, progress charts and competitions between grades.
The Carbon Yeti congratulates Cherry Crest students.
Schools weigh their garbage on the last day of the challenge to see just how much their work minimizes landfill-bound garbage. The schools with the lowest garbage per student win prizes, while the waste reduction behaviors continue on throughout the school year.
Elementary school prizes include lunch with the Carbon Yeti -- the Bellevue's recycling mascot -- for all students in the top school; three recycled "Owl Reduce Waste" awards; and a surprise recycled "Busy Bear" award. Secondary school awards include two "Recycle and Reduce Waste Robots." Winners of the challenge receive their awards through a lunch presentation by the city and school district.
Sixteen schools accepted the challenge this year, representing about 9,500 students and staff. This was the most competitive year yet, as schools had the lowest waste per student since the challenge began five years ago! Of course, the real winner in this contest is the environment.
According to the EPA, the average American student generates 67 pounds of lunch garbage per school year. On measurement day, all 16 schools combined generated 271 pounds of garbage for 9,000 students. Using reported weights from the contest day, the average Bellevue student would generate just under six pounds of garbage for the entire year -- less than 10 percent of the national average!
The schools that participated were:
Cherry Crest Elementary
Clyde Hill Elementary
Highland Middle School
Jing Mei Elementary
Odle Middle School
Phantom Lake Elementary
Puesta del Sol Elementary
Sherwood Forest Elementary
Schools with the Lowest Waste Per Student
Elementary: Cherry Crest Elementary with 562 students: was able to reduce waste to just 2.7 grams per student, the weight of a penny. Strategies: Student presentations to all classes, posters, parent and teacher newsletters, cafeteria helpers.
Middle: Odle Middle School with 970 students: was able to reduce waste to 24 grams, the weight of a little more than four quarters. Strategies: Daily weights and charting progress, daily announcements, competition between lunch periods.
High: International School with 578 students: was able to reduce waste to 21 grams. Strategies: posters, signs on bins, student green club.
Spiritridge Elementary with 678 students: reduced waste to 4.4 grams per student, less than the weight of two dimes. Strategies: announcements, newsletter articles, sorting activities, practice weigh days, promoted on website, fun costumes!
Puesta del Sol Elementary, with 569 students: reduced waste to 4.9 grams per student. Strategies: Formed Equipo Verde, made a banner, requested and received donated green aprons from Lowe's in Renton for student green team members, advertised program on reader board, cafeteria helpers, recycling bin costumes!
Surprise bonus award for Somerset Elementary
Every other year, the school district and city offer a surprise award to recognize schools for exceptional work. Somerset was recognized for its continued enthusiasm, innovation and commitment to the cafeteria challenge. Since 2012, Somerset's unique strategies have included: a very strong staff green team, student sorters, bulletin boards made from recycled milk cartons, working with local reuse business to offer reusable cloth bags to replace plastic sandwich bags, sample weighing throughout the year, assemblies, "green week" and sorting games.
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