Jill and her parent-teacher green team worked hard to perfect day-to day recycling in the cafeteria and the classrooms, but what about the special events? During the year there are as many as 200 parties school-wide, each generating an average of 30 gallons of garbage! Jill came up with a plan of action.
She and the green team introduced the idea of “Party Packs;” reusable cups, bowls, plates, and napkins to replace the mountains of waste created by disposables. They started with a pilot program testing the waters with packs bought by individual parents for a few classrooms. Once this was deemed a success they asked for a grant from DEQ to purchase packs for all remaining classrooms. The money was granted with the stipulation that they purchase as many used items as possible. They found used melamine dishes through a restaurant supply store and lightweight tubs to store them in.
As with any cultural change, communication and education is key, and Jill and the green team were very intentional in this process. Each pack came to the teacher with a note and an example email to send to the parent party organizer. This outlined what was in the pack, how to use, wash and return the items, and other ideas for reducing party waste. It also had great ideas on how to impress upon the kids what they were doing and why. One suggestion was to fill a large garbage bag with crumpled newspaper to show just how much waste they would normally generate and imagine that compounded by the number of classrooms and parties! The kids had fun comparing that to the very small amount of garbage they generated after using the Party packs.
The Party Pack idea has spread throughout the Network. Now at least nine schools have Party Packs.