SAS, GIS named Green Star Schools for recycling efforts

Smiling boy throws out garbage
A student recycles his lunch in the Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School cafeteria.

Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School and Goshen Intermediate School were named Green Star Schools for their waste reduction and recycling efforts, as part of the Orange County Green Star Schools Program (OCGSSP).

“We’re working to change behaviors,” said Teegan Kennedy, fourth grade teacher at Goshen Intermediate School. “Students are learning at a young age how they can help have a positive impact on the environment.”

Waste reduction and recycling efforts have been a long term goal of Kennedy, who heads the Green Star Program at Goshen Intermediate School. Kennedy has conducted recycling and other green programs at GIS for the past 10 years.

Karen McDonnell and Vita Dowdell run the Green Star Program at Scotchtown Avenue. Currently, both schools have achieved Two Green Stars out of five for their efforts, including conducting a waste analysis, placing recycling bins throughout the schools, communicating with parents and guardians, and using compostable trays.

Some additional efforts that could increase the number of green starts achieved by the schools include on-site composting and adapting a “green” policy district-wide.

“We’re making progress, but we have room to grow,” said McDonnell. “However, our students are enthusiastic about the process, even at such a young age.”

Students have been involved with every step of the program. In addition to learning about recycling and waste reduction through videos and assemblies, the students create signs and visuals around the buildings, help collect and sort the recyclables and serve as monitors — known as the Green Rangers at SAS and Green Team at GIS — to help their classmates “tap and stack” in the cafeteria – a major contributor of waste in most schools.

The tap and stack method includes properly disposing uneaten food and milk, trays, silverware, napkins, wrappers and straws during lunch periods. Students tap the waste on their trays into one can, dump unconsumed milk in another, and then stack their trays together. This reduces the weight of trash, uses less garbage bags and takes up less room in landfills.

Both buildings use the Clynk bottle recycling program which provides money in exchange for recycled plastic water bottles. Scotchtown Avenue  donates its collections to the Youth Ending Hunger Food Pantry. Goshen Intermediate will use its collection money to purchase refillable water stations, hopefully by the end of the school year.

In addition to in-school recycling, the schools have reached out to families to encourage continuing waste reduction efforts at home. This includes finding alternatives for high-waste producing products, such as using tupperware and reusable water bottles instead of plastic bottles, baggies and wrap, and skipping the straw.

“Our hope is that students will build earth-friendly habits and continue them outside of school, and ideally, for years to come,” said Dowdell.

About OCGSSP

Started in 2017, OCGSSP helps Orange County schools operate successful recycling programs, reduce waste, and teach students about the environment.

Participating schools have to complete four initial actions:

  • nominate a “program champion;”
  • submit a letter of interest;
  • establish a school green team of students, teachers and even parents;
  • and schedule a site visit with OCGSSP to learn more about what’s involved.

For more information, contact Ermin Siljkovic, recycling coordinator from the Orange County Department of Public Works Division of Environmental Facilities and Services, at (845) 291-3246.