Onward! Moving Towards Zero Waste Schools

We are working with schools both public and private to create systems that make it easy for teachers, students, staff, and families to do everything they want and need to with as little waste as possible. It’s better for us, better for our planet, better for our future – And it’s just as fun as it is educational.

We are a team of local parents, educators and zero waste community volunteers who love working with people of all ages to develop sustainable solutions that reduce waste of all kinds.

A waste audit is the perfect first step. Weighing, sorting, and cataloging a day’s waste provides each school with detailed information about how much waste is generated, and what could be redirected instead of being sent to the landfill. This information alone is frequently enough to motivate individual changes, and institutional changes can be tailored to meet each school’s real needs and desires. There are many things that can be done. Here are a few that are working now for local schools:

  • Prime placement of recycling bins with colorful labels for pre-readers.
  • Zero waste party kits for each classroom, washed and returned by parent volunteers.
  • Connecting with municipal composting programs to deal with school garden and food waste.
  • Do-it-yourself food scrap buckets for school families’ back yard hens and worm bins.
  • Zero waste school supply lists.

If you’re part of a school on Bainbridge Island and would like some help  moving your own program closer to zero waste, please let us know. We’re here to help.

Kindergarten classroom's Chicken Bucket for food waste.

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Blakely Waste Audit Proposal

Dear Blakely Elementary Staff,                                                          December  5th, 2011

     In 2009, Washington adopted the K-12 Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Learning Standards.   Part of the goal is to “increase…environmental literacy and enhance…academic achievement through real-world, integrated, project-based learning.” Toward that end, last month Blakely parent Rebecca Rockefeller, Sustainable Bainbridge Board Member Liesl Clark, and Zero Waste Bainbridge coordinator (and sometime Blakely sub) Diane Landry met with Principal Ande and later with the rest of your leadership committee to talk about raising awareness concerning what is going into the school trash and how to decrease the quantity or reroute its destination.

As a first step, we would like to invite you and your students to take part in a school waste audit, the basic premise of which is to determine how much stuff that gets tossed (to be trucked off and then put on a train bound for an Oregon landfill) could instead be diverted towards reuse, recycling or composting.  Last year some Minneapolis schools conducted their own audit and discovered that approximately 80% of all their waste could be kept out of the landfill!

The procedure is simple and fun J: we collect and weigh one day’s worth of school trash, empty it out onto tarps and sort according to end stream (the MN study came up with 19 categories!).  Then we weigh what really goes to the landfill versus what can be reused, recycled or composted.  Everyone gets a chance to see that “getting rid of” something can mean giving it a second life instead of having it end up buried in a big hole in the ground.  The learning would not have to stop there, as we have ideas and could furnish materials for follow-up activities that would blend right into your daily lessons, as well as be utilized by the specialists.

We hope to conduct the audits in January.  We will provide all the supplies and adult supervision and will modify the audit as fits your needs and schedule.   After the results are in, we can explore any next steps: zero waste party kits? lunch organics collection? ramped-up recycling?  your ideas?  The state environmental and sustainability standards call for children to develop a sense of civic responsibility and become “better stewards of the earth’s finite resources”. We – Rebecca, Liesl, and Diane – are eager to help Blakely students and staff with this endeavor.

Please use the contact information below to get in touch with us before winter break if you are interested in the waste audit.  Thank you so much!


Rebecca Rockefeller
Liesl Clark

Diane Landry

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