Zero Waste Solutions to Climate Change
Updated: May 26
Addressing climate change can be overwhelming. One person...especially a young person... can feel powerless. But a group of young people with a goal of utilizing simple, daily actions to create change can make a big difference and they did! Our Green Teams and EcoAction Club students addressed climate change by focussing on implementing waste reduction and waste diversion efforts in their homes, school and community.
We started by assessing the waste stream at each TTUSD school and learning about what exactly can be diverted through the recycling bins, paper diversion bags and Smart Sorting Bins. Students played SWEP's What Goes Where game to practice and address questions like, are milk cartons recyclable? Are plastic bags recyclable? Both no, unfortunately. Students learned that only plastics 1 and 2 are recyclable and only white printer paper can go into the paper diversion bag. Students learned about how Smart Sorting Bins are an additional waste diversion option that allows for chip bags, fruit squeezers, juice pouches, bar wrappers, glue sticks, markers, batteries and ink cartridges to be recycled through alternative companies, like Terracycle. Students then made outreach materials to share what they learned with their classmates and teachers. They made posters for their schools and a video that was shared with all the classrooms so that everyone is aware of how to sort their trash and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
Students did classroom waste audits at their school to see what materials were actually being put in the right places. Turns out that many classrooms needed a waste diversion refresher, as it can be pretty confusing. Students explored the limitations of recycling. They also observed that the Smart Sorting Bins were not being utilized effectively and lots of materials that could be diverted were still being thrown away. Through a problem-solving brainstorm, the clubs decided to implement classroom SSB collection to solve this issue. Sustainability club students "adopted" individual classrooms that they took responsibility for educating and supporting with weekly collection. Club members delivered collection bags and signage to each classroom and during weekly visits are able to answer questions and improve the waste diversion efforts of their school site. Through this process students learned how to assess a problem, talk about ways to fix it and then implement a solution.
Throughout these lessons students were also made aware about the problem of plastics, how we can't possibly recycle all the plastic being used, potential solutions to this issue and the importance of reducing our use of plastics (especially single use) overall.
Pivoting from plastic and trash, students then learned about the problem of food waste and how food waste is filling up our landfills creating the powerful greenhouse gas, methane. Using the information they learned they created outreach materials and helped implement food waste sorting in their cafeterias.
Additionally students learned the importance of water and electricity conservation. Students were shocked to learn that while it looks like our planet is full of water, only .003% of all water on the earth is actually available for human use. They were then enthusiastic about sharing information on how to reduce our water usage. Watch this Save Water flipgrid video to learn some water saving tips from our clubs.
Students learned where our electric energy comes from (natural gas and renewables), renewable energy options and how TDPUD has a goal of reaching 75% renewable energy by 2023 (currently at 63%). Students got to experiment with solar power and the EcoAction Club learned whether electric cars really do let off less emissions than fuel-powered combustion engines (while initially emissions from production can be higher, electric car emissions fall rapidly compared to fuel powered and become more efficient 1-2 years after purchasing), and they even got to practice driving a Tesla.
Sustainability Club members were invited to participate in SWEP's Earth Day celebrations at Palisades which included educating community members about food waste and being a part of the Trashion Show!
We were so happy to be back in person again to share these fun opportunities with our club members. We will miss our 2021-22 Green Teams and EcoAction Clubs, as each student brought a unique perspective, a deep enthusiasm and positive energy to our club meetings.
Thanks to all of our supportive partners that help make our clubs possible: Northstar's EpicPromise, TTUSD's PTOS, Placer County, Truckee Tahoe Airport District, Truckee Donner Public Utility District, Shane McConkey Foundation and Keep Truckee Green.