Waste Not Want Not

Does the word ‘audit’ sound about as pleasant as a root canal? What if a school-wide audit was a fun way to increase environmental awareness and build school community? Too good to be true? Several schools across the US and Canada have carried out waste audits – with some jurisdictions mandating them by law – and proven the exercise to be anything but rubbish. The objective of a school waste audit is twofold: 1) to teach the students that garbage doesn’t just disappear once it’s trashed - it can be recycled, composted, compacted, buried or burned, but it still ends up somewhere, and 2) to create a waste minimization plan. Schools typically get many students involved in collecting, sorting, weighing, recording and disposing all the garbage (minus the garbage from bathrooms) for a given time, say a week. The students then observe what kind of garbage is being thrown out, what portion can be recycled, and what strategies can be put in place to reduce the non-recyclable waste, such as disposable lunch containers or classroom supplies like dry erase markers and pens. Creative lesson plans and school activities reinforce the lessons learned from the audit, such as creating life cycles of trash, designing a waste minimization plans, creating an awareness campaign and attracting local support and attention in the media. AusPen markers have been happy to be the beneficiary of several of these audits as the students and teachers responded to seeing all the waste they were producing and sought out alternatives, such as refillable, non-toxic markers rather than the disposable variety. Helpful how-to guides, student audit worksheets, and waste minimization plans can be found at: Ontario ecoschools and San Mateo County.

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