Schools can be teaching kids the 3 R’s


Color coded bins with visual signage (and product examples!) help make it easy for students to know where their waste belongs.

Juanita High School students have recently learned that with minimal effort, they have reduced their lunchroom waste by half!

The school initiated their lunchroom sorting system in spring of 2015. With ongoing education, the students have learned that food, paper plates, and napkins go into the compost, empty beverage containers go in recycling, plastic utensils and wrappers go into trash. So much easier than calculus!

Juanita High School (JHS)’s waste reduction efforts have been supported by King County’s Green Schools Program. They provide guidelines, incentives, and support to reduce a school’s waste and improve their recycling rate.

JHS joins several other schools in the Lake Washington School District as a King County Green School. (They are, however, the first high school in the District to earn this recognition.)

Green Schools are not only saving resources and landfill space, they are also saving money. According to Lauren Fruge, Resource Conservation Manager for LWSD, Green Schools saved the District an average of $40, 000 last year. The average recycling rate for schools participating in the program is 57% (this indicates how much waste is diverted from the landfill).

Susan Vossler, parent volunteer passionate about recycling, has helped start composting-recycling systems in each of her children’s schools, following them from elementary to high school. Her hope is that reducing and diverting waste becomes part of every student’s education……from kindergarten to high school.

“I want to empower kids—their actions are making a difference!”

Make Your Children’s School a Green School!

Want to get in on the Green School action? Susan offers some advice…..

  • Get familiar with the King County Green Schools Program.
  • Getting the support of some key players in the school is essential: principal, custodian, and perhaps a teacher that shares the same eco-interests. It’s a collaborative effort.
  • Contact your School District. They will support your efforts to reduce the school’s garbage.
  • It’s nice if there is a student Green Team at the school, even if it’s just a few kids. They help educate and inspire other kids. I learned that messages coming from other kids are often better received than those coming from another adult. Check out the video that the JHS Green Team made to explain composting!
  • Finally, be patient. It takes time to establish a relationship with your team. And once you have the program up and going, it takes time for new behaviors to take hold. Recycling station monitors need to be in place for about two weeks for the “lightbulb moment” to happen. I always found a handful of other parents that agreed recycling is important and were willing to help as monitors during the kickoff phase. (Bribes work too!)

There are certainly challenges in educating students. Kindergartners are young and need a bit more support. High school students may be “too cool” for recycling. (Little do they know that being “green” is becoming SO cool now.)

King County Green Schools program has suggestions for most any challenge you come up with. They’ve guided over 200 schools in King County to becoming Green Schools.

With time, recycling at school just becomes part of the norm, as it has in most of our homes. At Juanita High School, being a Green School has become part of their Rebel Pride!

Thanks to Susan Vossler for sharing her experience and tips on starting a food composting program at school!