Energy and Sustainability Department sets its sights on a waste-free HISD with collaborative Zero-Waste Initiative

HISD’s Energy and Sustainability Department has a vision for all campuses to be waste-free. With that goal in mind, Analyst Stephanie Walker and her team worked to educate and inspire teachers and administrators with the District’s inaugural Zero-Waste Initiative email series.

Over the course of two months, the Energy and Sustainability team shared four in-depth digital newsletters with HISD campuses. The newsletters covered topics like  sustainability in schools, waste production, food waste, and how to become good environmental stewards through circularity, or the life cycle of the products we use. Each communication was packed with relevant information curated by Energy and Sustainability in partnership with the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation and the National Wildlife Foundation, among others.

“The initiation of the zero-waste program at HISD was inspired by the District’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” Walker said. “We aim to achieve several key goals throughout this initiative, including reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfills, minimizing the District’s environmental footprint, and educating students and staff about the importance of waste reduction. Our goal is to instill that culture of environmental awareness and responsibility while making a positive impact on the local and global environment.”

Through the Zero-Waste Initiative, Energy and Sustainability plans to reduce—and someday eliminate—waste at its source in HISD schools by increasing reusable options for commonly wasted materials and implementing recycling and composting programs on campuses. The bedrock of this initiative is education. As such, beginning with a pilot of 20 campuses, Walker’s team is hosting workshops and training sessions to give teachers the resources to instill in their students a foundation of sustainability awareness and best practices that they can use at school and in their homes.

Tricon Energy, Lyondellbasell, and Exxon Mobil are participating as partners in the initiative. During school visits, representatives share their perspectives with student conservationists and explain the work their companies are doing to help build a more sustainable future world.

Walker is looking to expand the pilot program to all HISD campuses and eventually package it for other school districts nationwide.

“The Zero Waste Initiative is moving into year two and the early success is pleasing,” HISD Energy and Sustainability Director Kirby Williams said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to accomplish our goals. I feel we’re off to a great start and having the support of the academic staff and leadership has been helpful.”

Walker anticipates 20 to 40 more campuses will participate in the Zero-Waste Initiative in the coming school  year. As the program grows, her team hopes to see a shift in the waste habits of HISD students and staff that will lead the District to recycle most of the waste it currently generates in the forms of food, plastic, e-waste, and paper goods. If successful,  this will help reduce waste-removal costs for the District, allowing those funds to be used for other purposes. To read the Zero-Waste Initiative newsletters and learn more about the pilot program, click here.