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Schools implementing wast reduction and recycling programs can save money, conserve natural resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling and waste account for the seventh largest source (1% of total) greenhouse gas emissions in California. By expanding programs that meet the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – schools will be on the way towards achieving our statewide goal of zero waste and a low carbon future.
Implement a School Waste Reduction Program
Improve your school’s waste reduction policy. Find out how to implement a waste reduction program in your school district, facility, or classroom by checking out the resources available at School Waste Reduction. By improving recycling, composting, and waste reduction practices, you can help your school on its way to environmental and economical leadership.
Reduce Waste in School Administrative Offices
- Develop a district-wide policy of photocopying on both sides of the paper.
- Use the blank side of printed material for creating draft documents and notepads.
- Email reports instead of making printed copies.
- Use outdated forms and letterheads for in-house memos.
- Post general memos in central locations or on electronic bulletin pages.
- Encourage saving documents electronically rather than in hard-copy paper format.
Create a Reuse and Recycling Culture
- Establish a school recycling system for paper, plastics, aluminum, and glass.
- Purchase products with recycled content packaging.
- Consider composting food waste.
- Participate in recycling programs for unwanted electronic equipment.
- Rent or lease equipment, particularly from manufacturers that will take back and recycle their goods at their "end of life."
Set Zero Waste as your Goal
A Zero Waste goal maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into the marketplace or the environment. Click here for information about how to implement a zero waste policy at your school.
Implement a Composting Program
Diverting food waste in school kitchens and cafeterias is possible with composting programs that get students involved in the process.
Check out this comprehensive manual for schools in Connecticut to see how they went about implementing and creating a school-wide composting program.
Take a look at a Tennessee school's one page guide on how to start a school composting program.
See what some San Francisco, CA schools are doing to implement a school lunchroom composting program.
Use Organic Mulch In Landscaping
Mulch is used around trees and shrubs to contribute to soil fertility and structure of the plants. Some utilities, such as SMUD, offer free wood chips to use as mulch. Compost, leaves and grass trimmings can also be used as mulch. Learn more here.
Collect School Supplies from Reuse and Exchange Programs
School supplies don’t have to be new. There are many programs that offer reusable, exchanged, or repurposed school supplies in California and the nation. Many local businesses donate unused office supplies that can be used by school teachers for their classrooms. Check out the CIWMB’s website for a list of resources at School Supplies.
Teach Students About Composting
Help divert waste by implementing a composting program in your classroom or by simply teaching students about composting.
"Do the Rot Thing: A Teacher’s Guide to Compost Activities" is an activity booklet, originally produced by the Alameda County Waste Management Authority that includes classroom activities and student project ideas.
"Composting in the Classroom: Scientific Inquiry for High School Students" is a free, comprehensive guide for teachers interested in guiding composting research projects by high school students.
Check out lesson plans and activity ideas from San Francisco schools that have implemented a school composting program.
Learn How to Recycle and Cut Waste
Recycling can be fun! It’s one of the easiest things you can do to help keep California cool. Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle with Recycle Rex, Department of Conservation’s spokesdinosaur. He’ll teach you all about the different things you can recycle – plastic, glass, paper, and more. You can also participate in a recycle challenge and get your school class highlighted on Recycle Rex’s website.
Learn About Composting and Worm Bins
Creating compost and/or worm bins is a great way to help reduce waste.
California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)
- School Waste Reduction
Provides information on how to get a waste reduction program started. This site also offers recommendations to take a district-wide approach, how to buy-recycled products, and effective waste prevention practices to cut costs.
- Compilation of Recycling Resources
Find out where to recycle construction debris (e.g. asphalt, drywall or metal), plastics (e.g. acrylic, nylon, high density polyethylene (HDPE)), and low density polyethylene (LDPE)), and/or electronic waste. Locate your nearest recycling center.
- California Materials Exchange (CalMAX)
An online materials exchange service designed to help schools, businesses, organizations, local governments, industry, and individuals find markets for nonhazardous materials that may otherwise be discarded. Schools can utilize CalMAX to search for available and wanted materials.
Guide to local resources including recycling centers, how to recycle, pollution prevention and how help protect the environment.
- This comprehensive manual for Connecticut schools will help all schools implement a composting program.
- This slideshow presentation by Robert E. Richter will teach you how to set-up your own composting bin.