As the 2022-23 school year draws to a close, King County Green Schools Program recognizes 67 schools, two school districts, and 88 student Green Teams for their waste reduction and other resource conservation practices – that’s more than twice the total number of schools as last year.
Issaquah School District and Tahoma School District earned recognition as Sustaining Green School Districts for their environmental initiatives in 2022-23.
Led by the County’s Solid Waste Division, the Green Schools Program helps King County schools and school districts to start and improve sustainable practices. Program guidance focuses on resource conservation, environmental justice, and waste prevention and collection of recyclable materials and organics – such as food scraps and yard waste.
“The Green Schools Program helps schools and school districts to set up and improve waste reduction and other resource conservation practices,” said Solid Waste Division Director Pat D. McLaughlin. “These practices help lay the groundwork for a more sustainable and equitable King County for years to come.”
The program offers critical assistance to school and district staff as the new Washington State Organics Management law will require food waste collection in many schools and as King County looks to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, as outlined in the County’s Re+ program and Strategic Climate Action Plan.
This year schools and districts focused on reducing the amount of waste they send to the landfill.
For example, with help from the Green Schools Program and the City of Auburn, Auburn School District piloted a program to replace single-use milk cartons with milk dispensers and reusable cups at Lake View Elementary School.
Federal Way Public Schools replaced single-use disposable trays with durable, reusable trays in 27 of its 37 schools. The district’s elementary schools replaced an estimated 4,000 plastic containers each day by offering salad bars instead of individually packaged fruits and vegetables.
The Federal Way district, Issaquah School District, and others set up food share tables, allowing students to place unwanted whole fruits and unopened packaged foods and drinks from the school meal program on a share table for other students to take.
“Resource conservation strategies help districts and schools to save money, reduce carbon emissions, and engage staff and students in learning about and participating in everyday school conservation practices,” said Dale Alekel, Green Schools Program manager.
The program also recognized 88 student Green Teams that work with school staff and volunteers on sustainability actions in their schools – 32 more than last year. Green Teams led school waste reduction efforts, such as teaching fellow students and staff how to sort recyclables, organics, and garbage, hosting clothing swaps, and leading low-waste lunch challenges.
Student teams also led efforts to enhance our environment – removing invasive species and planting native plants, mapping local watersheds, monitoring water use, and restarting a salmon release program.
The program has grown from three schools in 2002 to 341 schools as of this spring, with 85% of King County’s K-12 public schools outside City of Seattle participating. More than 200,000 students have had opportunities each year to engage in conservation practices with help from the program. In addition, 14 of 18 school districts in King County have received assistance from the program.