What Are Some Common Initiatives at the District Level?
Styrofoam trays in Portland Public Schools
In 2010, a number of Portland Eco-School Network parents were focused on cafeteria waste in their schools—styrofoam trays, disposable utensils, food scraps, and milk cartons. A subgroup of eight Network members formed with an initial focus on targeting Styrofoam trays. From the City of Portland solid waste/recycling staff, they were able to get a grant to purchase durable trays for the school district’s Nutrition Services. Timing was good because Facilities had done some data crunching to determine costs, and the new head of Nutrition Services was receptive to budgeting money for labor to wash the trays. It took several more years for the phase-in process because many schools needed dishwasher replacements, but by 2014 almost all elementary schools were using durable trays.
Food waste in Corvallis Public Schools
Margit Foss, Aaron Lesen, and Bailey Payne in the Corvallis Eco-School Network worked for over a year to get the green light to start food waste collection for compost at their children’s schools. The district has been extremely supportive. The pilot program has gone well, and the district has been working to roll it out to other elementary schools.
School supplies reduction and reuse
Responding to parental concern about school supplies being thrown away at the end of the year and then parents being asked to supply new ones, the PPS School Supplies Committee works to raise awareness about the waste and consumption habits inherent in the traditional school supply process. It carried out a survey of teachers and parents and found that in at least one-third of schools responding, there were reusable supplies left over, and there was space in the school to store them. Going forward, the committee can help schools analyze their supplies and re-vamp lists with an attention to fine tuning the supplies to actual need. This process generally includes an end-of-the-school-year clean-out event — to collect and redistribute still-usable supplies to students and/or other organizations in need.
Resource Conservation Policy
The Portland School Board adopted a Resource Conservation Policy in 2002 asking staff to develop a Resource Conservation Plan and train students, custodians, teachers, principals, and others as appropriate to ensure conservation accountability. In 2013 when the ESN asked to see the plan, we were told it had never been written. We formed a committee that has met with staff, developed a PowerPoint presentation on what we would like to see in the plan, testified before a board committee, and are awaiting our opportunity to testify before the full board. We are asking that a work group be formed to advise Facilities and Asset Management staff to develop a plan by a certain date.