Update: Thirteen Bellevue elementary schools competed in the Green Genius Cafeteria Challenge. Combined, they generated a total of just 17 garbage cans of trash on November 15th. Here are the winners:
1st Place: Enatai Elementary (514 students) – Enatai generated less than half of a garbage can of trash. The school launched a campaign to use “ReUsies” reusable baggies and Tupperware to reduce waste. They also broadcast tips to students, staff, and parents. Enatai will receive its trophy in a lunchtime presentation on Monday, December 10.
2nd Place: Cherry Crest Elementary (620 students) - Cherry Crest filled a trash can three-quarters full. Their green team promoted the competition with posters, announcements and classroom presentations. They formed a green ambassador team with representatives from all levels.
3rd Place: Medina Elementary (519 students) - Medina filled a trash can three-quarters full. They recruited a team of students and parents to help in the cafeteria with sorting recycling and composting to make it a community event.
Leftover pasta and paper napkins go in the green can. Unfinished milk goes in a bucket. Empty cartons are tossed in the blue bin. None of it ends up in the landfill. With a few simple steps, students at Phantom Lake Elementary are doing their part to save the planet.
Phantom Lake and other elementary schools across the district are competing in the Green Genius Cafeteria Challenge. On America Recycles Day on November 15, schools vied to see who had the least amount of cafeteria garbage for the day. Schools also score points for the most innovative zero waste campaign. Winners will be announced in early December. The top three finishers get bragging rights and a “Recycle Robot” trophy made from, what else, recycled items.
The district has been working for years to keep lunchroom leftovers out of the garbage. In fact, every month, the district diverts enough waste from landfills to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool three-quarters of the way full.
In 2010, the district partnered with the City of Bellevue in a grant-funded program to add organics recycling at all 16 Bellevue elementary schools. Schools were required to recycle food waste and form “green teams” made up of students, staff and parents to promote recycling and “foodcycling”.
As a result:
- All schools increased their recycling rates, some schools by as much as 21%.
- Fourteen schools increased their recycling rates by 10% or more.
- Overall monthly garbage collection decreased 30%
- The District diverts 2,500 cubic yards of organics from the landfill each month
How does “foodcycling” work? When students finish their lunch, they “sort it, pour it, recycle it, trash it, tap it and stack it”.
- Sort it: Students separate the items they didn’t eat, removing them from plastic bags or wrappers, in order to get through the foodcycle line faster.
- Pour it: Students pour out the milk and other drinks they can’t finish.
- Recycle it: Milk cartons, bottles, cans and juice boxes go in a big blue recycling can.
- Trash it: Straws, potato chip and snack bags, candy wrappers and plastic bag go in the grey trash bin.
- Tap it: Students tap their tray, dumping food waste and paper napkins into a green foodcycling can.
- Stack it: The empty trays are neatly stacked and students head out to recess!
The food waste is picked up by a compost company, and will one day become rich soil for gardeners. The recyclables get new life as plastic bottles or fleece jackets.
The effort has been a big success. Last spring, the district along with the City of Bellevue, received the ‘Youth Education Recycler of the Year” award from the Washington State Recycling Association.
District has continued to fund the program after the grant funding ended. To learn more about conservation efforts in the Bellevue School District, click here.