Waste Reduction Project Ideas from the Oregon Green School (OGS) Handbook

  • Displays in school entry, hallways, staff break room, etc. Examples include waste audit or energy audit results, new recycling efforts, recycling art projects, etc.
  • Student classroom presentations
  • Create a sustainability fair or recycled art fair
  • Create a mural with an environmental theme
  • Create a Q&A forum for staff, students and parents to get their environmental questions answered
  • Post signs in the bathrooms to remind students not to use too many paper towelsTeach students and parents about waste-free lunches
  • Posters in hallways
  • Routing messages rather than printing one for everybody
  • Using e-mail rather than paper
  • Convert some incandescent lights to fluorescents
  • Turn off every other bank of lights in classrooms/hallways
  • Choosing less toxic alternative products
  • Making art projects from old office supplies
  • Print double-sided
  • Create a donation station where people can drop off or pick up used clothing, games, sports equipment, etc.
  • Donate unwanted items to a thrift store or homeless shelter.
  • Encourage students to use rechargeable batteries both at school and at home
  • Have reusable/washable gloves and aprons for kitchen staff
  • Using half sheet forms rather than full sheet
  • Using durable rather than disposable
  • Post “Conserve Water” signs by faucets
  • Naturescaping
  • Bioswales
  • Setting up a REUSE IT closet or materials exchange for students or staff
  • Donating unwanted items that are in good condition
  • Collect paper that has been used on one side and reuse as a draft drawer in your copy machines and to use as note pads
  • Email school newsletters instead of printing
  • Teach staff, students and parents how to get off junk-mail lists
  • Replace disposable cups in teachers’ lounge with reusable cups, plates and cutlery
  • Reduce the use of toxic pesticides as part of school’s effort to become more environmentally sound
  • Put up prompts like stickers to remind people to turn off computers and other devices
  • Post “Conserve Energy” signs by light switches
  • Have your green teams monitor classrooms each week to see if they left lights, computers or other items on when nobody is around. Report these weekly findings to the classes
  • Establish a policy to require monitors to be turned off after 5 minutes of inactivity and computers after 2 hours of non-use
  • Turn off every other bank of lights in classrooms/hallways or delamp unneeded lights
  • Have computers, lights and copy machines set to automatically turn off at the end of the day
  • Conduct an energy audit using the Oregon Green Schools form &/or asking the Energy Trust or PGE to conduct an audit
  • Check that all heating/cooling vents in classrooms are not blocked
  • Do you have motion sensors in seldom used rooms
  • Set thermostats to maximize energy efficiency
  • Install light sensors or work with staff to take advantage of natural daylight and only use the necessary amount of lighting
  • Install solar panels
  • Incorporate water/energy conservation into your curriculum
  • If your refrigerator is older than 1993, use the EPA calculator to determine if your refrigerators are in need of updating
  • Check that refrigerator temperatures are between 38-42 degrees Fahrenheit and freezers between 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit
  • If you have vending machines, ask your distributor to delamp the machines
  • Install Vending Misers on all school vending machines
  • Install a green roof
  • Eliminate T12 lights and magnetic ballasts and replace with T8 lights with electronic ballasts
  • Check all school faucets hot water to ensure that the water temperature is between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Install daylight controls for exterior lighting
  • Create a district-wide policy to save energy
  • Install a rain garden
  • Determine how much water is used per year to water lawns/fields. Recommend replacing any non-field lawns with shrubs or native plants and calculate the water savings (in volume and $)
  • Work with your custodian to sweep or blow dirt from paved areas instead of use a pressure washer
  • Install rain barrels or another water caption system to use water that falls on the roof
  • Check that your school has faucet aerators throughout the school
  • Test all toilets for leaks
  • Install timers on bathroom faucets and locker room showers
  • Verify that your kitchen does not use a garbage disposal
  • Mark the storm drains at your schools &/or neighborhood to remind people not to dump motor oil or other waste
  • Post signs in bathrooms reminding students to conserve water
  • Keep the garbage dumpsters clean and away from storm drains
  • If your school does car-washes as a fundraiser, take steps to prevent waste-water from entering storm drains
  • Set up the irrigation system to automatically avoid watering on wet days
  • Water early in the morning to avoid evaporation in the heat of the day. Avoid watering when it is windy
  • Regularly sweep school parking lots to avoid excessive debris in the storm drains
  • Plant native plants throughout school grounds
  • Install low-flow shower heads in locker rooms
  • Analyze your school’s seasonal water use
  • Ensure that all toilets low-flow (1.6 gallons or less)
  • Calculate storm water runoff – measure area of roof and other impervious surfaces—and the amount of rain you receive (use in Math classrooms). Think about ways to divert the storm water away from the storm water drains and put it back to use
  • Research pervious surface alternatives for all impervious surfaces (concrete, asphalt, roofing) and calculate the amount of storm water reduction if replaced
  • Include waste reduction when planning school events like sporting events, plays, carnivals, concession stands, durable lunchbox programs
  • Identify a parent volunteer position in support of green efforts
  • Provide funding for student-led sustainability efforts
  • Manage rebate opportunities e.g., ink cartridge or drink pouches
  • Donate excess food from kitchen to food banks
  • Install software to convert faxes to PDFs rather than print them
  • Install LED exit signs
  • Automatically set up documents to have 0.5” margins
  • Replace milk cartons with milk dispensers
  • Work with your school office to get all bills sent electronically
  • Work with your suppliers to reduce how much packaging they use when sending your orders
  • Eliminate the sale and use of bottled water in your school
  • Get rid of disposable lunch trays and plastic silverware and replace with durables
  • Require after hour event organizers to include a recycling plan
  • Set up recycling at sporting events, plays, school dances, community events, etc.
  • Set up a worm composting system
  • Check that all classrooms, the office, library, hallways, etc. have recycling bins. Check with your school’s facilities department to be sure that there are no fire marshal restrictions on bin placement
  • Compost vegetative waste at your school like fruit peels, coffee grounds, grass clippings, leaves and kitchen waste

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