Sustainability Spotlight: Pilot Program Pushes Students to Recycle

Students at several St. Louis County elementary schools are getting a lesson in the 3 R’s. Not only “reading, writing, arithmetic” … but also “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

The Earthways Sustainability Network is a new pilot program from the Garden’s Earthways Center. The goal is to reduce the amount of waste going from a school and into a landfill.

“Typically, school trash will have a lot of paper and a lot of food waste. And then the packaging that goes along with food waste, including the dreaded spork, napkin, straw packages.”

-Kat Golden, Manager of Sustainability Education

Teachers learn how to create recycling programs, while their students act as the catalyst to get the rest of the school excited about recycling.

One of the main ways to measure success is through waste auditing. Trash is sorted for recyclables and weighed, once at the beginning of the school year and again just before summer break. Kat Golden, Manager of Sustainability Education for Earthways Center, recently wrapped up one such audit at Halls Ferry Elementary: “They made incredible progress getting recyclables out of the trash stream.”

The four schools participating in the pilot program this year are Halls Ferry Elementary, Gotsch Intermediate, Griffith Elementary and St. Francis of Assisi. The program receives grant funding from the St. Louis County Department of Health, paid for using landfill tipping fees.

The ultimate goal going forward is two-fold: To create a network of engaged and empowered educators who share ideas about recycling in schools, and to translate student excitement about recycling at school into a desire to reduce waste at home and in the community.



Cassidy Moody, Digital Media Specialist

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