County honors district schools as Earth Heroes

April 12, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County is honoring Grand Ridge Elementary School — plus teachers, a student and a staff member from the Issaquah School District — as Earth Heroes at School.

The annual honor highlights schools and people for contributions to environmental protection and student environmental education. The county Department of Natural Resources and Parks’ Solid Waste Division announced the 2011 honorees March 30.

“Winners of the Earth Heroes at School awards are a diverse group who share the common goal of making our world a better place,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “It is an honor to recognize their achievements in environmental education, waste reduction, energy conservation and other positive efforts.”

Grand Ridge recorded a 35-percent recycling rate last year.

Eager to do more, students, teachers and staff members improved recycling in classrooms and offices, and started a food scrap-recycling program. The schoolwide Media Club created a video to demonstrate proper recycling and composting. Moreover, the Issaquah Highlands school promoted recycling at all school events.

The result: The recycling rate increased to 62 percent.

The county spotlighted Issaquah Middle School teachers Olga Haider and Michelle Pickard for spearheading a successful and sustainable resource conservation program at the school.

Pickard, the Associated Student Body student leadership advisor, helped her students take ownership of the school recycling and composting program. Her ASB students pick up recycling containers from each class at Issaquah Middle School each week. Last year, the leadership students gave eco-friendly presentations in every classroom at the school.

“It’s helped improve our recycling efforts because our students get to see firsthand if students are recycling or are not recycling,” Pickard said.

Haider created a green team, and soon all types of students, not just those in ASB, were helping the school conserve resources and water.

Pickard helped the school reach Level 1 Green School status. Then, Haider helped the school reach the tougher-to-achieve Level 2 status through water conservation and by installing a school organic garden with the help of teacher and co-advisor Kurt Wieland.

“Kids at this age need to feel that they are making a difference, that they can make a difference,” Haider said. “That they have the power to change things.”

The recycling rate at Issaquah High School concerned senior Kate Brunette, another Earth Heroes honoree.

So, Brunette gathered support from the city and the county Green Schools Program, and reached out to students, custodial staff members, teachers and administrators to implement strategies to increase recycling. The efforts included adding food waste collection to the program.

Brunette and senior Maria Schandl started the Roots and Shoots environmental club as sophomores. Students usually remember to recycle, but reminding classmates to compost is more work, Brunette said.

“People are pretty good at recycling because it’s a habit,” she added. “For the first two weeks (of composting), we had monitors at stations tell people where to throw stuff away.”

David Holbrook started the recycling program on the first day of school at the just-opened Creekside Elementary School. In the first month, the recycling rate at the school reached 55 percent. (Creekside opened last August.)

In addition, Holbrook supports all conservation efforts at Creekside, and uses eco-friendly cleaning products to maintain the campus’ sustainable features.

Constantine plans to honor the local honorees and others from across the county at a ceremony April 14.

Issaquah district schools often clean up in the Earth Heroes competition.

Cascade Ridge Elementary School, Maywood Middle School and Pine Lake Middle School received schoolwide awards last year.

Get involved

Earth Heroes at School recognition ceremony

  • 4:30 p.m. April 14
  • Community Center at Mercer View
  • 8236 S.E. 24th St., Mercer Island

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Reporter Laura Geggel contributed to this report. Comment at

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One Response to “County honors district schools as Earth Heroes”

  1. Creekside Elementary earns award for cutting waste : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds in Issaquah, WA on May 3rd, 2011 3:10 pm

    […] award is the latest eco honor for Creekside. The school received a coveted Earth Heroes at School award last […]

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