County honors Earth Heroes
June 1, 2010
Saving the planet one apple core, one plastic bag or one light switch at a time are this year’s King County Earth Heroes. The annual awards were given to one Issaquah School District teacher and three district schools. The individual winner was Meagan Elliot, a counselor at Pine Lake Middle School. Cascade Ridge Elementary School, Maywood Middle School and Pine Lake received schoolwide awards.
County officials awarded nearly two-dozen individuals, groups and schools with the award. Each recipient created or maintained programs that significantly improve the health of the environment through recycling or conserving natural resources or energy, or by educating students.
Elliot earned recognition after working with teachers, students and custodians to implement Pine Lake’s food-scrap recycling program. Her efforts, with inspired initiative from students, she said, helped reduce the amount of trash collected daily from 15 bags to five bags, a 66 percent reduction.
Elliot also headed the implementation of a zero-waste locker clean-out program. Students push a cart through the hallways, collecting notebooks, coats and any other discarded school supplies. Whereas students used to throw usable materials away, most of them now help re-use items, Elliot said.
The motto is “don’t throw it away if it’s not garbage,” she said. “I just see people being more mindful about stuff.”
Students help Elliot further the cause with posters, and creating and showing an educational video in classrooms.
Elliot said she hopes to start a greenhouse and gardening project on the Pine Lake campus — maybe even with chickens.
Since 2005, Cascade Ridge students have been hard at work recycling, but this year, the school’s Green Team helped better educate students regarding what could and couldn’t be recycled by clearly labeling bins in the cafeteria for food scrap recycling.
As a result, students and faculty increased their recycling rate this year to 58 percent and decreased their garbage costs by 35 percent. They also eliminated the use of straws and polystyrene trays.“It’s lots of fun to see them motivated,” said Toni Osotio, program coordinator at Cascade Ridge. “It’s something they’re making a difference in.”
Osotio said the key for the program’s success is that the students are completely involved in the process, so they feel empowered and see the benefits.
While Maywood students have been recycling since 2005, they only recently added a food scrap-recycling program, which increased the recycling rate from 24 percent to 62 percent.
Principal Jason Morse said that means they reduced the number of times the trash is emptied at lunch to once a day, instead of after each lunch. Instead, they’re emptying the recycling bins after each lunch, thanks to the help of the school’s custodians who modified their work habits.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids taking time to understand the importance of recycling and being good stewards of our earth and of the community,” Morse said. “Initially, I worked with the ASB to get it kicked off, but since then, the kids have really owned it.”
The 12 employees and 40 students who make up Pine Lake’s Green Team added food scrap composting to their already established recycling program this year.
The students created new signs and an original video to help educate students on the new piece of the program. The kitchen employees also played an integral role in helping the program succeed.
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.