Environmental education programs in the schools and community have an impact that extends beyond the classroom.
Pierce County Environmental Educators Help Schools Earn National Recognition
Congratulations to both the Bethel School District and Eatonville School District’s Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy for receiving Green Ribbon School awards from the U.S. Department of Education. The annual awards acknowledge the school district and school’s achievements in taking a comprehensive approach to sustainability.
Environmental educators and the recycling coordinator from Pierce County Public Works partnered with students and teachers to develop programs that helped reduce waste and find savings for the schools and districts.
Bethel School District
Bethel is the first school district to have all of the schools and facilities in the district participate in at least one waste sort. They worked with Pierce County Public Works staff to assess waste and recycling practices, which has allowed the district to save $285,000 in avoided trash costs since 2009.
Pierce County Public Works also provided recycling containers for use at Art Crate Field, the stadium next to Bethel High School. Fifty pounds of recyclable aluminum cans and plastic bottles were collected each week during the fall athletic season.
Two schools in the district had students leading efforts for sustainable
practices. The 24/7 Green Team at Bethel Middle School began selling
reusable "Bulldog bottles" to help reduce plastic water bottle usage. A
grant from Pierce County Public Works helped them install a water bottle
filling station near the cafeteria. The bottle-filling stations are now
available to all schools and districts who wish to apply for the grant (contact us for more information).
The Spanaway Middle School science club members helped the school make
the switch to reusable trays in the lunchroom. They compared the
purchase and disposal costs of foam lunch trays to reusable trays and
presented the information to the school board, who approved and
authorized the purchase. After six months the program paid back the
initial costs, with no noticeable increase in domestic hot water use.
Two-thirds of the daily lunchroom trash has also been reduced.
Bethel School District is one of only two school districts in the state to be recognized with a Green Ribbon Schools award.
Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy
Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy, part of the Eatonville School District, is one of just three schools in the state to be named a Green Ribbon School.
Educators from Pierce County Public Works have helped students sort the
trash and analyze the contents annually since 2013. The school composts
their lunchtime food scraps with worm bins built by students.
Recently, the sixth to eighth-grade middle school students brainstormed
strategies and discussed actions they can take to improve recycling.
Students and staff implemented three of their ideas just a few days later:
Create a recycling wall that displays everyone’s pledge and commitment to recycling
Award ”golden” recycle bins to classrooms that demonstrate excellent recycling
Hold competitions across grade levels and show the results at their Green School Award assembly
The education team has also trained school staff about recycling and
worm composting. This has helped teachers and administrative staff
understand and incorporate waste reduction and recycling messages into
the broader educational mission. A fourth-grade teacher learned about TerraCycle
during one of our classroom lessons, and was inspired to build a
collection station for the school. TerraCycle is a program that helps
collect and repurpose hard-to-recycle items like drink pouches and water
With encouragement and assistance from our environmental education team,
the school was recently awarded Bronze Level Certification from Washington Green Schools.
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