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Zero Waste for Schools

Originally appears in the Spring 2012 issue

Take a look behind most schools and you’ll see dumpsters full of classroom paper, plastic bags, discarded cafeteria food, milk cartons and paper towels. Day-to-day operations in a typical school require lots of resources, very little of which gets reused, reclaimed or recycled.

Visit one of 31 Green Star Schools, comprising 14,000 students and staff in Boulder County, Colorado, and the story is different. Hallways and classrooms are still bustling, but outside you find dumpsters not only for garbage, but for compost and recycling. More than likely the trash container is less than half full while the compost and recycling containers are brimming. How is that possible?

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Cyndra Dietz has been the Program Manager of Eco-Cycle’s School Recycling and Environmental Education Program in Boulder, Colorado for 22 years. She founded the Green Star Schools program, a comprehensive Zero Waste system for schools, upon which this article is based. Cyndra has won numerous awards for her work in environmental education and school waste reduction programs. Kary Schumpert is an environmental educator for Eco-Cycle and has worked in the environmental field for a variety of nonprofits for 14 years. She has conducted composting workshops for schools, families and communities and maintained her own worm compost bin during that time.