Issaquah elementary schools earn King County eco honor

January 25, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Creekside, Grand Ridge recognized for recycling

Milk carton, paper and bottle recycling? Check.

Composting? Capri Sun recycling? Check and check again.

Madelyn Fernstrom (left) and Jarrod Morgan, students in Sanjana Pathak’s fourth-grade class at Grand Ridge Elementary School, dump a classroom tub of mixed paper into a barrel for recycling. By Leslie Lederman

King County Green Schools Program honored Issaquah’s Creekside and Grand Ridge elementary schools in January for their resource conservation, recycling included.

Creekside and Grand Ridge were two of eight schools honored countywide.

“Each of these eight schools can be proud of how it involves students and staff in learning about conservation and improving conservation practices,” King County Green Schools Program Manager Dale Alekel said.

Creekside and Grand Ridge achieved Level 1 in the Green Schools Program, focusing on waste reduction and recycling.

Creekside, a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-certified building, opened in fall 2010 and started recycling from the get-go. Today, students and staff have a recycling rate of 55 percent and reduce their waste by recycling not only the usual suspects — paper and plastic — but also milk cartons and food scraps.

“The kids are really great about it,” Program Assistant Judy Bowlby said. “They dump their milk cartons out and put the carton into the recycle bin.”

Students can participate in TerraCycle’s Capri Sun Juice Pouch Brigade, directing the discarded pouches toward artists that can make them into bags, clipboards, pencil cases, waste baskets and fences.

Though staff members led the initial “green” initiative, student leaders plan to get involved soon.

The Creekside student council is looking for ways student can show their “green” spirit, and a group of students called the Waste Watchers will monitor the disposal bins at lunch to make sure students are recycling and composting when possible.

A recent lunchtime poll found that about 80 percent of primary students and 80 percent of intermediate students had increased their recycling at home after learning about it at school, Principal Robin Earl said.

Creekside Custodian Dave Holbrook previously worked at Newcastle Elementary School, another “green” school.

At Creekside, “We’re right on the cutting edge,” he said. “We don’t have any incandescent bulbs in this building. All of our bulbs are fluorescent.”

Creekside’s lights are connected to motion sensors, so lights turn off when a room is vacant for 20 minutes.

“The district has done a great job with keeping up with the technology as it’s coming,” Holbrook said.

The less waste the school produces, the fewer times the garbage hauler has to empty its trash bins, thereby saving the district money, he added.

At Grand Ridge, students boast a 62 percent recycling rate. At lunch, students are encouraged to save food they might normally throw away.

“If there was a food that they got for their school lunch that was packaged, like a string cheese, they could put it on the table and then other students could take it,” Vice Principal Leslie Lederman said.

If students brought a sack lunch but didn’t eat everything, they could give their extra food to a friend, or take it home and eat it as a snack later.

The school eliminated the use of wrapped straws, and uses durable or compostable trays during lunch.

Since Grand Ridge opened in 2006, students and teachers have recycled nonstop. Students use scrap paper notepads, and the PTA uses online minutes instead of printing hard copies.

Third-grade teacher Renee DeTolla is spearheading a “green” team of students who will work to increase composting rates so they will have more soil for their school garden.

Of Issaquah’s 24 schools, 13 participate in the Green Schools Program. In King County, 450 schools have cut waste since the program began in 2003.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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