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Accomplishments for the 2018-2019 School Year
This year parent-led Green Teams (GT) and District 65 staff collaborated to begin inching Evanston toward the Zero Waste by 2050 goal laid out in the City’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan. “Thanks to our dedicated staff and volunteer efforts from our district GT members, we were able to start some great projects,” said outgoing School Superintendent Paul Goren. Replacing Styrofoam lunch trays with compostable paperboard ones – a move that saved about 12,000 trays from landfill every week – as well as expanding lunchroom composting from three to six schools were some of the District’s achievements, he said.

In addition, D65 conducted waste audits to gather baseline data on how to reduce landfill waste and expand recycling and composting, and appointed a part time sustainability coordinator, Heather Gustafson, to further its goals. “As a District we look forward to fostering this collaboration to help make the world a better place for our children and future generations,” Supt. Goren said.

Washington GT co-founder Sylvia Wooller hopes that the early waste-reduction instruction will help give students an equitable chance at environmental education, activism and green jobs training later. “Our ultimate goal is to foster the next generation of environmental stewards, while enacting lasting sustainable change in the School District,” she said.

GT garbage-prevention efforts expanded beyond the lunchroom this year to include school-wide events and several other projects at different schools:

Locker and Classroom Clean-Out
Started last year as an idea from a Dewey parent, the Locker and Classroom Clean-Out project collects used-but-still-usable school supplies that are headed for the trash at the end of the school year. Last year, 5 schools participated; this year, the Dewey GT is coordinating this effort across 11 District 65 schools. Last year, over 200 boxes of supplies were collected, and many were donated to local nonprofits that offer free school supplies to under-resourced schools in our region.

Trex Plastic Films Recycling Challenge
At least four D65 GTs have set up plastic bag recycling bins through Trex, a company that makes recycled plastic decking and outdoor products. GT parent volunteers bring the plastic each week to Jewel-Osco for Trex pickup; the company bestows a garden bench or other gift to each participating school as thanks. The four schools below together collected over 2,000 pounds this year!

Environmental Awareness Events
Willard GT parents hosted two community events this year. The 10 Second Film Festival showed 91 eco-themed short films created by D65 students, and Getting Green Done shared information about waste reduction efforts and opportunities at the city, school and personal level.

Below are just a few of D65 GT schools’ eco-accomplishments this year. Details are provided in some cases to assist others hoping to tackle waste at their own schools or organizations.

Bessie Rhodes:
• Continued successful lunchroom composting pilot program.
• Aimed for zero waste at the Back-to-School party, pancake breakfast and other events by purchasing compostable dinnerware and Collective Resource compost pickup.
• Adopted a street through Skokie’s Adopt-A-Street program; celebrated Earth Week by organizing a group of 25 volunteers that picked up ten garbage bags full of litter along Church St. from Crawford Ave. to McCormick Blvd.

Dawes Elementary:
• Designated 3rd & 4th grade Green Keepers who made morning announcements about sustainability, assisted with lunchroom waste audits and recycling at events, and submitted a video for the 10 Second Film Festival.
• Conducted a school waste audit with the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC); organized “Taking Care of Our Earth” presentations by SWANCC for kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grade classes.
• Aimed for zero waste at Dawes Fest and other events by purchasing compostable dinnerware and Collective Resource composting service, and by purchasing Igloo cooler water dispensers and encouraging use of reusable water bottles.
• Set up Trex plastic film collection bins mid-year; recycled over 130 pounds.
• Held a school supply collection drive.

Dewey Elementary:
• Helped launch the new composting program by supplying buckets, setting up clearly labeled waste stations in the lunchroom, volunteering during lunch periods to help kids figure out the new system, and doing presentations about “Why We Compost and Recycle” that included lunchroom waste sorting games and activities. According to one parent’s calculations, Dewey collected about 1,126 gallons of food scraps, “or about 15 bathtubs full! This translates to about 4,280 pounds, roughly the weight of all the kids in 4th grade.”
• Recycled over 650 pounds of plastic bags to Trex; recycled 135 pairs of shoes at the Fun Run; recycled about 2,500 markers through Crayola’s ColorCycle program.
• Collected egg cartons and other waste materials to use in student art projects.

Washington Elementary:
• Continued successful lunchroom composting program, saving roughly 200 pounds of food waste from landfill every week; presented to classrooms about which lunchroom items should be recycled, composted, landfilled or placed on sharing tables; showed each class “The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry,” a video about food waste.
• Purchased reusable Preserve brand plates, cups and cutlery (their heavy-duty Everyday line, made of recycled plastic yogurt cups) so that all future school events can be zero waste; aimed for zero waste at Fall Fest, Cultural Unity Night, and other gatherings by composting food waste through Collective Resource, assisting with waste sorting, and using the new washable dinnerware and Igloo water dispensers or renting the City’s mobile water station; hosted zero waste information tables at events; sold reusable stainless steel drinking straws engraved with school name.  
• Furnished collection bins for markers, school supplies, toner cartridges, batteries, eyeglasses, pill bottles, bar wrappers, toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes and other items, and recycled these through outlets in swancc.org/recycling-directory/; recycled about 380 pounds of plastic bags and films through Trex.
• Set up compost and recycling bins in the teacher’s lounge and most classrooms.

Willard Elementary:
• Continued successful lunchroom composting program, saving roughly 5,000 lbs. of food scraps from landfill; presented to each classroom about lunchroom composting and recycling with a five-minute video, short presentation and Q&A.
• Recycled about 850 pounds of plastic bags and film through Trex collection bins; recycled or reused 32 lbs. of markers, 40 lbs. of crayons, and hundreds of pencils, books, notebooks, binders and other supplies at End of the Year Classroom
& Locker Clean Out.
• Aimed for zero waste at eleven school events and at teacher appreciation meals by working with event organizers to purchase compostable dinnerware; assisting with or hiring Collective Resource to assist with composting and recycling; encouraging families to bring dishes and water bottles from home; and renting the City’s mobile water station or setting up the Owl Oasis, a water station featuring
Igloo 5-gallon water dispensers, 250 reusable cups and filtered water from Hinckley Springs. “No disposable plastic water bottles were purchased for any PTA event!” a Willard GT parent proudly reported.
• Organized a Willard Green Team Rummage Sale that raised funds for student environmental education and waste reduction efforts; hosted two Eco-events after school on half-days; and funded and organized a school-wide assembly by Joey FineRhyme to educate students about climate change and simple ways to reduce waste.

To share your school’s eco-accomplishments, find out how to start or join a Green Team, or connect with others, contact D65greenteams@gmail.com or District 65 Green Team’s Facebook group.