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From Creating Waste to Cleaning Up Trash: How U.S. Schools Are Reducing Debris


Schools provide our children with an education, give them new opportunities, and produce a lot of waste. This has been a subject of interest in recent years, and prompted the EPA to create an extensive guide aimed at helping schools reduce waste generation. Schools are also finding their own creative ways to reduce trash and promote a cleaner environment.

Curbing Food Waste

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) did a wide-scale waste characteristics study of state schools and found that organic material (mostly food) accounted for 48% of all waste. Another study of Minnesota schools found that 50% of waste was organics (24% was strictly food) that could be composted.

Schools like Chesterbrook Elementary School in McClean, VA are setting a good example by taking the initiative to teach their kids how to separate out recyclables, compostable materials and unopened items that can be donated from the regular trash. Sixth graders volunteer to be on the Eco Team that provides oversight, and adult volunteers take the donated items to a local food pantry.

Other schools are incorporating food waste concerns into their science lessons to promote reducing waste and enhancing community service. The Durango School District in Colorado is limiting portions in an effort to reduce food waste. Another tactic being used is to move lunch until after recess periods when students are more likely to eat, resulting in 30% less plate waste.

Putting Paper to Better Use

According to the National Wildlife Federation up to 60% of school waste is paper that’s thrown out in the classroom. Paper is an inescapable part of schoolwork, but there are many creative solutions that have been used in schools to reduce waste. They include:

  • Supplying students with tablets to complete and submit assignments.
  • Setting up paper reuse stations in the classrooms.
  • Encouraging students to use both sides of their paper before recycling it.
  • Allowing students to submit homework via email.
  • Using towels, erasers and cloths instead of paper to clean up messes.
  • Posting newsletters and notices online instead of printing them out on paper.
  • Donating old books and holding student book exchanges.
  • Using 3-ring binders with loose-leaf paper instead of notebooks.

Coastal Cleanup

Hundreds of schools along the coast participate in the annual Coastal Cleanup. In California it’s the largest volunteer event of the year, thanks in part to the students that pitch in to help out. Local county coordinators help educators plan for the event and even arrange for schoolyard cleanups if students can’t get to the coastline. This year in New Hampshire the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation worked with schools to create a full day of learning and cleaning. Students were taught about the importance of protecting coastal ecosystems and the harm that debris can cause to wildlife and the environment.

Using Better Waste Collection Services

One of the EPA’s suggestions to schools is that districts look over their current waste management contracts to 1.) see what services are offered and 2.) see there is room to renegotiate so that recycling services are available. Some schools are even able to negotiate having their lawn clippings, tree limbs, etc. diverted to composting centers instead of landfills. is a waste management service that fully supports school initiatives to reduce waste. Our dumpster rentals help to keep trash contained so that there is less litter in the environment and our crew handles the recyclable separation. This helps businesses, schools, and homeowners keep more out of the landfill without having to do any extra work. Use our online form to find local dumpster rental rates in seconds.

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6 Ways Everyone Can Support Green Strategies in Their Community

real estate and family home concept - closeup picture of male and female hands holding many green paper houses

Some of the most impactful improvements are coming from small communities across the country that implement green strategies in their own backyard. Here are a few ways that you can promote green strategies and conservation in your community.

Speak Up for the Land and Water Conservation Fund

This September Congress did not reauthorize funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since 1965 LWCF has provided the funds needed to support the conservation of state and local recreation parks as well as national parks. LWCF officials are asking that everyone speak up for the fund and urge their representatives to reenact the program.

Contacting your rep by mail or phone is a great start. You can go one step further by raising awareness about the need for reauthorization with a petition in your community. Make sure to let people know that LWCF is not supported by taxpayer dollars. Funds come from taxes paid on offshore oil and gas drilling to offset the damage done to the environment.

Start a Community Garden and/or Farmers’ Market

Establishing a community garden at a local park, school or your own front yard does more than produce fruits and vegetables. It raises awareness and promotes eating locally, which is much better for the environment. Another benefit is that you can control the products that are used and opt for chemical-free pesticides. Starting a local farmers’ market is another way to promote healthy eating that has a lower impact on your local ecosystems.

Stay Updated on the Community Infrastructure

Every city is going to have its own economic development, zoning and planning committees that are charged with maintaining and improving the infrastructure. It’s up to citizens to become involved in the process and voice their opinions about how the city can accomplish responsible growth. This keeps city officials accountable and encourages them to make use of green strategies like tighter building construction a top priority.

Urge Community Leaders to Create a Sustainability Plan

Green cities are those that have created a sustainability plan and taken action to make it happen. Sustainability plans are created using public input and taking the unique characteristics of a city into account. It is in no way limiting, but instead promotes the use of innovative ideas to improve the quality of life for all community members.

Support National Park Preservation

Do you have a national park, forest or preserve in your area? Supporting organizations like the National Park Foundation and National Park Conservation Association gives you a way to get involved locally. They hold regional events throughout the year, and your donations will provide assistance within your community and beyond.

Support Local Businesses That Support the Environment

As a consumer you have purchasing power. The companies you give your business to drives the local economy, but it also has a huge impact on the environment. Make it a point to only shop at stores that have made a commitment to sustainability. This sends a clear message that those types of businesses are the ones that will flourish within your community.

When we all make a small effort it can have a huge impact. fully supports sustainability by helping to keep local communities free of litter and harmful materials. Our dumpster rental service helps to contain trash at construction sites and makes recycling separation easier so that more debris doesn’t end up in the landfill. Get the latest rates for your area online in seconds!