Waste reduction yields designation
Contrary to the warblings of a certain well-known frog, it might indeed be easy being green.
Students in Kelly Muller’s ecology class at Albany Options School know how it’s done. Last year, the class went through the process of turning the alternative high school program into an Oregon Certified Green School as a service learning project.
The Oregon Green Schools program was created in 1997 to help schools set up and maintain waste reduction and resource efficiency programs to improve their environments. AOS’s official certification was awarded last week.
To achieve the designation, students had to set goals for recycling, waste reduction and resource conservation. They decided to concentrate on recycling and composting programs, especially to benefit their new school garden, put in this past spring.
Students did a trash audit to figure out how much waste the school produces and what it’s composed of, and then tailored plans accordingly.
Recycling stations, which before had been just in classrooms and school offices, have now been installed in staff rooms and the cafeteria (for both recyclables and food waste).
Compostable items get picked up after meals and go in a compost bin, donated by Allied Waste, near the garden. Ecology students also pluck dead leaves and roots from the garden to add to the pile.
Expansion plans are in the works. Muller’s students will work this year on researching native plants that grow well in swampy areas, to create a “rain garden” in the bioswale, the sloped drainage area to the north and east sides of the school.
“I’ve always been an environmentalist. It’s one of my favorite subjects to teach,” Muller said. “I just want these kids to be aware that everything they do affects the state of the planet. It’s teaching them every footprint matters.”
Once they realize, Muller said, the students take the information home and the word spreads. And indeed, several AOS students said they’re now planning gardens at home after working in the one at school.
“I’m thinking about composting now,” said senior Cody Garrett, 18.
Being a “green school,” added AOS community liaison Anna Sokolov, “gives them an example of how they can make a difference. It makes it applicable.”