Develop a Waste Action Plan

Fruit-VegsGoal: Develop a plan for reducing the amount of waste the school sends to the landfill.

Objectives: Students will…

  • Develop a plan of action based on prior observations and research
  • Identify specific needs and how they would address them in their plan
  • Think through all of the aspects that go into waste sorting: behavior, signage, collection, storage, hauling
  • Cultivate alliances with school employees to further their plan
  • Make model or schematic to represent their plan
  • Develop a narrative to explain their plan
  • Advocate to school decision makers to approve the plan

Materials: variable, poster board, markers

Advance Preparation: Discuss class’ activities with the custodial staff and school administration if you haven’t already.

Time Estimate: hard to predict, at least two days but could be a full week depending on how you approach the task.

Instructional Plan

Give students an opportunity to reflect individually on what they have learned and the direction of action they think it should lead to. Spend the first 5 minutes of class (or assign as HW the night before) journaling about how they would like to improve their school’s solid waste system.

Use the writings as a jumping off point for a class brainstorm about how to proceed. The focus of your brainstorm could be: “What changes could we realistically make to our waste system that would have an impact on decreasing waste going to the landfill?”

Encourage students to think through how they can not only alter large and small infrastructure, but how they can educate the school community about how to change their waste habits.

The brainstorm may result in a clear consensus about the action plan, or it may reveal that there are several options for action with passionate supporters for each. If this is the case, have students work in groups to develop their specific proposals.

Details of the Plan
Allow students time to work in small groups to develop the details of their plan. If all the students are working on one common plan, you could divide it into parts and give each small group one part of the whole on which to focus (for example, how will compost be collected or what will recycling bins look like). Involve the students in defining these different pieces and give them choice as to which aspect they would like to pursue.

Because each school, and therefore action plan, is so different, it is hard to give a specific series of steps here. The big picture is that you want to make sure the students have covered all aspects of the waste cycle: from reducing input to collection, transport, and disposal. Make sure to involve any school personnel who are involved in any parts of the process: get their feedback, ask them what would be feasible from their point of view and how the students could make their jobs easier.

Have students develop a schematic or model showing what happens to the waste, whose responsibility it is, and the back-up plans in place in case things get confused. Prepare a presentation to the school administration, school board, PTO or other relevant group who will ultimately approve or deny your proposal.

As part of this process, prepare a budget for any materials needed to carry out the plan. Submit a Sustainability Grant Application for up to $500 worth of materials from the Green Learning Station.

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