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Spring 2016

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King County Go, Green Team blog!

Register now for King County’s new 2016-17 assembly show

Shopping scene from assembly

A brand new King County waste reduction and recycling elementary school assembly show is coming in September. The new assembly will teach students how to make sustainable choices for their school and environment. Recycling, food waste prevention and composting, and climate change will be among the topics addressed through fun, interactive skits by talented and engaging actors. King County’s assemblies consistently receive rave reviews from students and teachers alike. Scheduling for specific dates will start in August. Sign up now to get on the first-come, first-served list.


King County honors Earth Heroes at School

Earth Heroes at School Group Photo

On May 5, Solid Waste Division Director Pat McLaughlin recognized 10 students, four student environmental clubs, seven staff, three teachers, and four schools as 2016 King County Earth Heroes as School. Twelve school districts were represented. Each spring, the program celebrates King County students, teachers, staff, and volunteers who do exceptional work at their school or beyond to protect our environment.

Here are a few examples of this year’s Earth Hero projects:

  • Building a garden to serve as an outdoor community learning space and donating the harvest to school families and the local food bank.
  • Collecting paper towels from the school bathrooms and sending them to the compost center.
  • Connecting special education and leadership students in the operation of the recycling program.
  • Having middle school students teach elementary school students about food waste prevention and other environmental topics.
  • Producing a “We Create Change” fundraiser for the protection of wildlife and ecosystems.

See the complete list of winners and their projects.


Elementary Green Team news

Almost 60 elementary Green Teams have registered with King County. They represent a variety of efforts to conserve resources and educate others about waste reduction and recycling, water and energy conservation, gardening, food waste collection and other issues. Here are just a few of their projects.

Elizabeth Wing’s third-grade Green Team at Carnation Elementary School has made paper reuse trays for each classroom; created a pledge, a video, and posters to remind others to rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle; and provided recycling presentations in the community. Ms. Wing was honored as a 2016 King County Earth Hero at School for engaging students in conservation practices every day and teaching them to be stewards of the environment.

The green team at Cottage Lake Elementary, a 2016 King County Earth Hero at School, has continued its waste reduction efforts begun in 2014. It has maintained its 60 percent recycling rate through outreach activities such as weekly reminder announcements, school-wide recycling pick-up, recycling signs and posters, paper-reuse boxes, and reminders to turn off light switches. Green Team members also make classroom presentations about reducing, reusing, and recycling. These efforts have increased awareness and action both at school and at home.

Sun Hong and Alexis Lolley, Green Gables Elementary School, are two active Green Team members recognized as 2016 King County Earth Heroes at School. They have contributed to the weekly Green Tips of the Week, helped write the school slogan Think Clean, Think Green, wrote a school chant and shared it at the monthly assembly, launched a water conservation poster contest, and helped produce a “We Create Change” fundraiser for the protection of wildlife and ecosystems.

paper-maché globes

At Lake View Elementary, second-grade teacher Trina Lutes-Johnson involved her students in the school’s Green Team program, which had previously consisted of fourth and fifth-graders. Students studied the seven continents and viewed pictures from Trina’s time in India. They brainstormed ways to increase awareness about decreasing waste, recycling, and being a global citizen. They created paper-maché globes, using their old spelling lists and worksheets to create something new from used materials.

Twice a year, Tracy McGee’s multi-grade green team at Maple Hills Elementary leads a campus beautification project in which students and community members work in the gardens and school trail. This is in addition to encouraging reuse, recycling, and energy conservation through lunchtime announcements and posters.

student with apron

Participating in the Meredith Elementary Green Team is so popular that leader Penny Copeland has developed a rotation schedule that allows everyone to participate. The 63 members take turns monitoring school lunches and encouraging the student body to reduce waste. In recognizing the green team on Earth Day, Valerie Orrock and Principal Terry Meisenburg spoke to the entire school about the importance of the day and of actions such as reusing and recycling materials. Students signed a membership poster and shared stories about why they think it’s import to protect the earth.

With support from a mini-grant, Alicia Sullivan and the green team at St. Luke School in Shoreline, designed and built a three-bin composting system and several worm bin composting stations in order to reduce waste and provide educational opportunities for the whole school. Math classes calculate the amount of materials diverted from the landfill or ratios of compost to soil needed for a healthy garden. The students have developed an appreciation of gardening, nature, and the environment. Alicia also hopes that students will encourage their families to use composting bins at home. Every grade, kindergarten through eighth, is responsible for its own raised garden bed. Upon graduation, eighth-grade students pass their bed to the incoming class of kindergarteners. Ms. Sullivan was recognized as a 2016 King County Earth Hero at School for her work with the garden project.

The fourth-grade green team at Southwood Elementary led by Jody Emerson has been instrumental in helping the school reduce the amount of food waste at school. The team helped students sort their lunch waste properly and encouraged them to think about how much food they put on their trays. Students also give to others packaged food they don’t want.

All 52 fifth-grade students at Westwood Elementary make up a dynamic green team led by teacher Laura Hoover-Sanders. The team uses a multi-faceted approach to waste reduction. In the lunch room, a rotating group of students ensures that all kids know how to waste less and sort properly. One student monitors the salad bar and suggests portion control to the kindergarten through third-grade students. Two students monitor the sorting area. Another oversees the share table. On average, the school keeps sixty food items out of the garbage every day. With a goal of zero waste, green team members keep track of which menu items are thrown out, composted, and consumed the most. At the end of the year, they share this information learned with the head of food services.

recycling cows

Westwood green team members also focus on conserving resources in the classroom. Four students dressed as recycling cows perform spot inspections of every classroom. Classes that pass inspection for a certain period of time earn a longer recess. The recycling cows also monitor the playground on Fridays and report any litter they find. The team shares results of the activities in announcements that challenge the school to be litter-free. “Energy cows” walk around the building to make sure doors are closed and lights are turned off in unoccupied rooms.


Secondary School Green Team news

This year, more secondary schools actively participated in the King County Green Team program than in previous years. Thirty-two green teams supported school conservation efforts, conducted research, and created campaigns to motivate their peers through videos, spirit week, and other outreach.

Shaileen Johnson, a student at Big Picture High School, proposed a green team and facilitated the weekly meetings, which focused on reuse and recycling. Under Shai’s leadership, the green team began a campaign to educate students on the benefits of proper recycling. The team surveyed the campus and identified areas that needed recycling bins and signs. Shai also planned a green spirit week. She was recognized as a 2016 King County Earth Hero at School.

Green team students at Cedar River Middle School created a five-pledge campaign to encourage all students to take action. The five pledges were to turn off lights, unplug electronics, dress appropriately for the season, use a refillable water bottle, and use less and recycle and compost more. The pledge drive increased awareness that doing something small can make a big difference. Advisor Meghann John facilitated the green team’s collaboration with the school’s creativity club. The two groups came together to make art and usable products from repurposed materials.

The International Community School Green Team introduced composting collection at the school in April 2015. The team worked closely with the custodial staff, did waste audits, made an instructional video, and created signs on proper sorting of waste. The waste audit prior to composting collection showed that 80 percent by weight of the school’s garbage was compostable. With establishment of the program, nearly all food waste is diverted to make compost. The ICS Green Team was selected as a 2016 King County Earth Hero at School.

The Juanita High School Earth Corps, advised by teacher Jim Clark, initiated a lunchroom sorting program in March 2015. Each year, the students have created a video to inspire the JHS students to participate. Through various media sources (newspaper, newsletter, announcements) the students have created a new green culture at JHS. Students now sort their lunchroom waste and have increased the school's recycling rate to over fifty percent. The club was recognized as a 2016 King County Earth Hero at School.

The Lakota Middle School Green Team worked on three projects: a story of the life cycle of a salmon and how humans affect their habitat; a rain garden model that was entered into the Carton2Garden competition which challenges students to repurpose milk and juice cartons to build or enhance school gardens, and storm drain art and education on what should go down the drain and where. Each project was student driven and facilitated by teachers Laurie Sukola, Rasa Conklin, and Michelle Dayley.

The green team at Olympic Middle School, together with students from Latinos Unidos, Builders Club, and seventh and eighth-grade science classes, created a school rain garden. With support from a Green Team mini-grant, teacher Laine Dow and the students researched locations and designs, obtained materials, and constructed the garden. They plan to create signage to identify native plants and explain the purpose of a rain garden, develop and carry out a maintenance plan, and celebrate successes. The garden will prevent runoff and serve as an outdoor learning opportunity for all students for years to come.

trash on a tarp

The Pacific Cascade Middle School Green Team, teacher Courtney Peterson, and custodian Joanne Donovan spent the school year teaching others about waste reduction and recycling, which resulted in less waste and higher recycling rates. In February, the team hosted a “Trash on a Tarp” event during their three lunches. Students were instructed to sort and throw away as usual, but to put items on tarps instead of in bins. The green team analyzed the results, identifying successes as well as areas for improvement. They made video announcements, promoted waste-free Wednesdays, and recognized a super recycler each week. The team received a mini-grant to continue their understanding of the issues by visiting Safeco Field in June to learn how a large facility reduces waste. They plan to create a final video to share what they learned with the entire school. The green team and advisors were honored as 2016 King County Earth Heroes at School.

Teachers Tony Olny and Judy Ellis and the green team at the Secondary Academy for Success focused on creating community and improving awareness of environmental issues throughout the school year. For the third consecutive year, they collected aluminum cans for the “Great American Can Roundup” in an attempt to win first place in the nation. They distributed reusable water bottles to all students who did not have one in their effort to keep plastic bottles out of landfill. For Earth Day, students assessed their ecological footprint and pledged to focus on one or more habits to benefit the environment.

waste sorting

Stacia Tellefson and the Shorecrest High School Environmental Club set a goal to inspire the school to waste less this school year. They inventoried existing practices and recycling stations. As a result, they increased the number of recycling containers, pairing every trash can with a recycling container. Because food waste is typically the highest percentage of a school’s garbage, the team started a composting collection program in the school lunchroom. Environmental Club members monitor the stations and help students sort correctly.


Parents surprise students with waste audit

Sorting waste

The PTA at Kenmore Elementary has supported the school’s efforts to improve its ecological footprint and become a King County Green School. In April, the PTA conducted a surprise waste audit. Classes were given a clear bag for recycling and a white bag for garbage, and were told to throw away their waste as they normally would. As each class finished lunch, their bags were collected, labeled, and weighed. Then the parent volunteers took apart the bags, resorted as necessary, and reweighed the bags. This gave them a snapshot of how much waste is created during lunch, what percentage of waste is being recycled, and what mistakes students are making in sorting their garbage. The audit also identified how much food waste is created. The PTA plans to use this data to encourage the school and district to start collecting compostable materials. The school is planning a follow-up audit before the end of the school year.


Resources and opportunities

truck wheel wash

Destination Zero Waste
This new program from the King County Solid Waste Division provides free transportation to the Bow Lake recycling and transfer station in Tukwila for a tour that will teach students what happens to garbage at a transfer station, where it goes from there, and recycling options available to customers. Students will be introduced to some of the workers on site, including engineers, equipment operators, recycling specialists, and truck drivers. This opportunity is available to classrooms with a high percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced meal benefits. For more information, contact Cynthia Adams, 206-477-5239.

The Urban Pesticide Education Strategy Team (UPEST) has put together comprehensive information and resources for school gardening on the WSU School Integrated Pest Management webs page. Get tips on siting and setting up a school garden, smart watering, pest control, and other information for a healthy garden.


Become a King County Green School

As of May 2016, 236 schools – 47 percent of K-12 schools in King County (outside City of Seattle) – have received assistance, tools, and recognition from the King County Green Schools Program. Join these 236 schools and get help to engage your school community in improving waste reduction, recycling, and other conservation practices.

King County Green Schools Program provides hands-on assistance, school visits, and the resources and tools (including recycling containers and signs) schools need to make improvements. Sign up to participate. Contact Dale Alekel, 206-477-5267, or visit the King County Green Schools web page if you have questions about the program.


King County Green Schools Program recognizes 70 schools this spring

Congratulations to the following schools that completed program levels.



Auburn School District

  • Chinook Elementary School
  • Hazelwood Elementary School
  • West Auburn High School

Highline School District

  • Waskowitz Outdoor School

Kent School District

  • Kent Elementary School

Lake Washington School District

  • Inglewood Middle School
  • International Community School

Northshore School District

  • East Ridge Elementary School
  • Kenmore Junior High School
  • Moorlands Elementary School

Shoreline School District

  • Brookside Elementary School
  • Shorecrest High School

Private schools

  • Holy Family School (Auburn)



Level Two schools maintain Level One waste reduction and recycling practices, and learn about and engage in energy conservation actions.

Auburn School District

  • Ilalko Elementary School
  • Lake View Elementary School
  • Washington Elementary School

Issaquah School District

  • Maple Hills Elementary School
  • Pacific Cascade Middle School

Kent School District

  • Horizon Elementary School

Northshore School District

  • Cottage Lake Elementary School
  • Maywood Hills Elementary School

Renton School District

  • Talbot Hill Elementary School

Vashon School District

  • Vashon Island High School

Private schools

  • St. Bernadette Parish School (Burien)



Level Three schools maintain Level One and Two practices, and learn about and engage in water conservation and pollution prevention actions.

wastewater tour group

Enumclaw Middle School students tour a wastewater treatment plant.

Enumclaw School District

  • Enumclaw Middle School

Federal Way Public Schools

  • Green Gables Elementary School
  • Lakota Middle School

Issaquah School District

  • Cascade Ridge Elementary School
  • Challenger Elementary School
  • Discovery Elementary School

Renton School District

  • Tiffany Park Elementary School

Tahoma School District

  • Tahoma Senior High School

Private schools

  • King’s High School (Shoreline)
  • St. Luke School (Shoreline)



Level Four Sustaining Green Schools maintain Level One, Two, and Three practices, and complete an additional conservation action or educational strategy.

Auburn School District

  • Lakeland Hills Elementary School
  • Lea Hill Elementary School

Enumclaw School District

  • Westwood Elementary School

Federal Way Public Schools

  • Camelot Elementary School

Highline School District

  • North Hill Elementary School
planting trees

Newcastle Elementary School students planted a school garden.

Issaquah School District

  • Apollo Elementary School
  • Briarwood Elementary School
  • Creekside Elementary School
  • Grand Ridge Elementary School
  • Issaquah High School
  • Issaquah Middle School
  • Liberty High School
  • Newcastle Elementary School
  • Pine Lake Middle School
  • Sunny Hills Elementary School
  • Sunset Elementary School

Kent School District

  • Covington Elementary School
  • Crestwood Elementary School
  • Kent-Meridian High School

Northshore School District

  • Bothell High School
  • Secondary Academy for Success

Riverview School District

  • Carnation Elementary School

Shoreline School District

  • Echo Lake Elementary School

Snoqualmie Valley School District

  • North Bend Elementary School
  • Snoqualmie Elementary School
  • Two Rivers School

Tahoma School District

  • Cedar River Middle School
  • Lake Wilderness Elementary School
  • Rock Creek Elementary School
  • Shadow Lake Elementary School
  • Tahoma Junior High School
  • Tahoma Middle School

Private schools

  • Academy Schools (Tukwila)
  • King’s Elementary School (Shoreline)
  • The Evergreen School (Shoreline)
  • The Jewish Day School (Bellevue)


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