How do you change the waste culture, while reducing the amount of trash, at an elementary environmental magnet school?





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A fourth grade teacher at Garlough Environmental Magnet School, in St. Paul, Minnesota, researched options available to reduce GEMS volume of trash going to the landfill. Objectives included replacing Styrofoam and plastic with biodegradable materials, seeking funding through grants, receiving support from all teachers, involving students in hands-on practices and creating a sustainable initiative. Bilingual posters for Spanish and English were placed on all bins in the school to show sorting for paper, compost, trash, aluminum, plastic and glass. Staff participated in surveys to determine change for their personal and professional environmental stewardship. School wide sorting took place, including cafeteria food waste, which reduced the number of trash pick-ups. The result lowered the cost of hauling the compost and purchasing biodegradable material. A successful endeavor, the superintendent pledged to move the rest of the district toward the same sorting practices in the following school year.

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