I am a first grade teacher in the largest K-5 elementary school in the state, Falmouth Elementary School. I have brought many sustainability efforts to the children and adults at the school. This endeavor began more than 10 years ago with the introduction by ecomaine of single-stream recycling in Falmouth. Once the program was available in town I was able to bring it into the elementary school and begin teaching the students about the important of recycling and waste reduction. This process continues today with a large and successful composting and recycling program in every classroom as well as the cafeteria. Recently my emphasis has expanded to include monitoring electricity production of the solar electric panels on the roof and to helping arrange the installation of an electric vehicle charger at the school.
All classes in the school now have blue single-stream recycle bins as well as brand new composting buckets for paper towels and food scraps from snacks. This has greatly reduced the amount of trash that is leaving each classroom.
In addition, the amount of trash in the cafeteria has been reduced by over 90 percent. Now as the kids dump out their trays, they walk down a short line where they put metal flatware into a container and dump unconsumed liquids into a bucket to get composted. After that, all recyclable materials are put into a clear recycled bag. These bags are excellent because very little labeling is needed and all mistakes are easily seen. After the students have put the waste into the recycling bags, they put remaining waste, like “Ziploc” and potato chip bags into a small trash bag. Finally leftover food scraps are dumped into the big green Garbage to Garden compost bin.
One of the most impressive benefits has been the increase in composting in the middle and high school—as those kids move on to the other schools they expect to see the same programs.
This year I have added to the program by purchasing (with grant funds) a large computer monitor, which is mounted in the lobby of the school. It now announces to all visitors and students the current, daily, weekly, monthly, and year-to-date solar energy production as well as money earned and carbon removed from the atmosphere as a result of the solar panels that are on the roof of the school. We are on track to have an electric vehicle charger installed at the school within the next weeks.
– Guest post and photos by Josh Olins
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