Elementary students learn to litter less, recycle more

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With clipboards and spring scales handy, fifth-grade students at Red Elementary School traveled from class to class to weigh bins of recycled paper.

“I hope it’s a high number,” said student Jayden Brown while picking up a recycle bin full of paper. “Recycling is a good way to keep the Earth clean.”

Last week, the students weighed bins from 21 classrooms and found that their classmates and teachers had recycled 27 pounds of paper – nine pounds more than what was collected in March.

“I’m glad it was 27 pounds, but I think we can recycle even more paper,” said student Zamaiah Robertson.

Earlier in the school year, Red Elementary was one of five HISD elementary schools to win a $500 Wrigleys Litter Less Campaign Grant from the National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools program to continue its work on implementing hands-on recycling programs for a sustainable campus. Briargrove, Law, Northline and Ray Daily elementaries also received the grant.

Through the grant, the schools have been able to expand their recycling programs.

At Ray Daily, students have recycled more than 10 tons of paper, plastic and aluminum cans. Recycle bins have been added to each classroom, teacher work room, conference room and administrative office. Students pick up recycled items each day after school.

Recycle bins at Red were also added to each classroom, allowing students from all grades to actively participate in the recycling program. Students delivered the recycling bins to classrooms and created posters to encourage classmates and staff to remember to recycle. They plan to draft a mission statement for the recycling program. The grant project has also given students the opportunity to weigh, monitor and document paper waste throughout the school year.

“I have fun weighing the different (trash) bags because I get to see which classes recycled the most,” Robertson said. “When we recycle, it makes our school cleaner, and the things we recycle can be used to make new things.”

Students at Red have played a vital role in the Litter Less Campaign. The students pick up the recycle bins and only empty them once they’re full. They also make periodic visits to classrooms to see if students are actually recycling.

“We’ve had an increase in the amount of paper we’re recycling because now our students are more aware of what is and what is not recyclable,” said Red science teacher Linda Blue, who applied for the grant. “We want our students to be conscious of how their actions today can affect the future of the Earth.”

The school also recycles plastic and aluminum cans. The school has recycled more than 4,500 pounds of aluminum cans. For each can recycled, the school receives money that has been used to purchase new books for the school library and make donations to Texas Children’s Hospital and Meals on Wheels.

“There’s so much we can do to save our environment,” said librarian Michelle Smith, who helped start the aluminum can recycling project at Red. “You see so much waste being thrown out that you have to think about what you can do to save the planet. Every little bit helps.”

Red, Ray Daily, Briargrove and Northline are on track to becoming a bronze level eco-school through the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools Program. Through the Litter Less Campaign, the schools were required to complete seven steps as part of the eco-schools process, including organizing a green team comprised of students and teachers, creating an eco-friendly slogan to get the school community involved in school sustainability efforts, and completing an audit of a green project such as a recycling program to measure its success.

“We want to get this school and so many others to a point where sustainability becomes part of the whole school, and not just one classroom,” said Mayra Fowler of the National Wildlife Federation South Central Region. She’s helping several HISD schools receive an eco-schools designation. “We want them to be able to celebrate their sustainability successes with green schools around the country.”


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