The results are in on the efforts of Gause Elementary Green Team to increase recycling and reduce waste for certification as a Washington Green School.

According to Meg Johnson, Waste Connections of Washington Waste Reduction Educator, Gause had a 6-yard garbage container serviced three times weekly.  “The school is now going to one 8-yard garbage serviced just once a week,” she reported.  “The monthly savings will be more than $800 and the yearly savings of nearly $10,000. It’s an amazing amount of money that they’ll be saving, not to mention the amount of waste being diverted from the landfill.”  Waste Connections works closely with Clark County Green Schools.

As part of the Green Schools program, the Gause Green Team, made up of students and led by Gause custodian, Ellen Lancaster, conducted an initial waste audit to identify the amount of waste, recycling and compost produced in one day, providing a baseline to measure the impact after an environmental project.  Gause was one of several area schools to then install new milk dispensers to put an end to milk carton use and reduce both food and packaging waste.

“I want to thank Mark Jasper and Sodexo for working with us on this,” Lancaster said. “Without Mark’s support as food service manager, this would not have been possible.  Eliminating milk cartons was a critical element in this volume of waste reduction.  Milk cartons accounted for half of all cafeteria waste that is not food.”

Lancaster is proud of the effects the club has had on the culture of the school and the opportunities it has provided students.  “Everyone in the club has something to offer,” she said.  “Some of these kids are not necessarily leaders in other areas of the school, but this club gives them the ability to have a role in conservation.  They have knowledge and expertise around recycling to share with peers and with adults.  It allows them to be helpful and feel like they have something to offer.” A role of Green Team members includes monitoring lunchtime waste to help students put items into the correct receptacle for recycling, composting and trash.

“I like that we are helping get students in the habit of making choices to recycle, reuse and use less of items that go to our landfills” Lancaster added.  “They are learning how to be responsible consumers.”

Gause is certified at the bronze level in waste and recycling. “Bronze means you are certified in one category,” explained Lancaster.  “Other categories are Energy, Healthy School Buildings, School Grounds and Gardens, Transportation and Water.”