Briarwood Elementary is latest campus to be honored as a Green School

February 7, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Efforts that started in September 2010 just paid off for students and staff at Briarwood Elementary School.

In December, the school was certified a Level One King County Green School. Along with only three other schools in King County, Briarwood’s efforts were formally recognized Jan. 31.

“Each of these four schools can be proud of how they have involved their students and staff in learning about conservation and improving conservation practices,” said Dale Alekel, King County Green Schools Program manager.

Level One programs focus on waste reduction and recycling. There are several criteria schools must meet. The schools must reach a recycling rate of at least 40 percent; establish at least one paper reduction practice; one lunch waste reduction practice; and, one practice involving durable products. Alekel said many participating schools sliced garbage disposal costs by reducing waste and recycling.

Briarwood staff and students took several steps in order to reach Level One status, said Jennifer Mitchell, a program assistant at the school. First, the school created a Green Team of students, third-graders who helped train other students how to sort lunch waste into recyclable materials, compostable materials and garbage. There are now about 35 third-graders trained to help younger students sort their lunch leftovers.

On other fronts, two fourth-graders put together a PowerPoint presentation about recycling in the school, a presentation Mitchell said was shown to students in much of the building. Presently, Briarwood’s cafeteria has two refuse-sorting stations, one for those who bring their lunch and one for those who eat a school-prepared meal. Mitchell said Briarwood’s head custodian, Steve Fischer, has been very helpful in making sure things run smoothly.

Outside of the lunchroom, Briarwood staff and students have taken other steps to reduce and recycle. School administrators are encouraged to cut paper use by making two-sided copies, use email for communication, and send newsletters and other materials to parents and others electronically. A crayon-recycling bin is kept in the staff workroom. Once a month, a Briarwod parent collects the scraps and transforms them into new crayons.

According to the Green School Program, Briarwood recycles 55 percent of its solid waste through its schoolwide program. In 2010, with help from the city of Issaquah, Briarwood students began setting aside food scraps and food soiled paper that is delivered to the Cedar Grove compositing facility. Mitchell noted Briarwood has gone from needing one garbage pickup per week to needing a pickup only every other week. And the school now uses smaller trash baskets.

For the future, Mitchell said Briarwood very much has its sights set on Green Schools Level Two status. Level Two concentrates on energy conservation along with building on the recycling measures instituted to meet Level One requirements. Mitchell admitted Briarwood will have a leg up in obtaining Level Two. Next year, Briarwood will move into a new building that is presently under construction. That building is being built with energy efficiency in mind, she said.

Countywide, the Green Schools program provides assistance, recycling containers and stickers, along with ongoing support to help schools and districts maintain effective conservation practices. Since 2008, when program levels were launched, 121 schools have completed Level One, while 62 have completed Level Two and 25 schools have reached Level Three.

In the Issaquah School District, Briarwood is not alone in earning Green Schools honors. In all, 21 district schools have earned at least Level One status.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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