student sorting through waste

Students at Amador Valley understand that recycling and composting should be part of students’ daily routine. The lessons we learn in school lay the habits of a lifetime and Local Leaders are paving the way for sustainability as they take necessary steps towards making their schools a cleaner, greener, recycling, and compost friendly environment.

Since 2016, the Go Green Initiative has focused a large number of its efforts on giving students the necessary resources to be environmental advocates in their schools and community. Local Leaders of the 21st Century is a program for high school students developed by the Go Green Initiative that was piloted at Amador High School in Pleasanton, CA and has grown to over 120 members.

These students have taken on a number of projects including:

  • Field trips to the transfer/recycling center to see how waste, recycling, and organic material is handled.
  • Informed local school board of Pleasanton Unified School District that schools would be required to comply with state laws AB341 and AB1826 by giving a representation at a public, televised board meeting.
  • Worked with local business owners to help them comply with by given presentations and meeting with owners to help them better understand the ordinance.

Students in Action

Not only are these students’ environmental advocates but they are not afraid to do the dirty work, the Local Leaders organized a cafeteria waste audit in which they hand sorted one day worth of waste the student body produced in their cafeteria area. Performing such an audit includes:

  1. Removing large trash bags from large waste bins
  2. Emptying all the contents from the bags onto large tarps
  3. Hand sorting waste into three categories: trash, recycling, and organics
  4. Re-bagging the sorted waste to take weight and volume measurements

These students understand the critical impact these audits have on their school waste system. This type of waste audit helps:

  • Students implement a three-bin waste system: Local Leaders are working with school administrators and custodians to help implement a recycling and composting program school-wide for a campus of 2,800 students.
  • Encourage data-driven decisions: Waste reports from these audits will help school officials make data-driven decisions regarding the schools’ waste removal.
  • Better understand student waste habits: Students performing the audit were able to see trends and identify common food products that students frequently disposed of throughout the day.

This on-campus project stirred interest amongst staff and students as the Local Leaders emptied bags of trash onto tarps in the schoolyard. They even attracted community interest as local news, The Independent, sent a photographer and reporter to cover the audit for a featured article.

Agents of Change

When students come together with combined initiative, they have the power to influence administrative decisions and achieve big things. The Local Leaders at Amador have been the catalyst for other schools in the district. All Pleasanton schools are now set to perform waste audits in the new year to implement a three-bin waste system. For more information, check out their blog!

Learn more reading their blog.

About Author

Emily Kromalic (Development & Strategic Communication) is in charge of Communication and Development for the Go Green Initiative. She works to spread the word about the importance of sustainability education, climate change, and environmental conservation. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Emily is a transplant to the Bay Area and resides in San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in English and Legal Foundations from The Ohio State University.