Ten-year-old Aly Frose and 11-year-old Madison Breslin reach into a compost bin and pull out bits of garbage and recyclable items.
Madison is holding a crumpled up paper towel with green paint marks all over it.
Dirty paper towels used to dry one’s hands are compostable, but ones used by someone to wipe paint off their hands are not, she explains.
Adding compost bins in every classroom is just one of the ways Greendale elementary is being environmentally friendly. It’s also one of the reasons they won $1,000 in Science World’s B.C. Green Games competition.
In its sixth year, the B.C. Green Games is an annual contest designed to encourage kindergarten to Grade 12 students to document and share their environmental action stories on topics such as energy conservation, transportation, schoolyard greening, recycling, composting and community stewardship.
Greendale was one of the top ten elementary schools in the province, chosen by a panel of environmental experts, to win the B.C. Green Games. They also won the contest’s early-bird draw in October and received a video camera with which they used to document their green ways.
The school put together a 45-student ‘green team’ made up of two classes — a Grade 3/4 class and a Grade 5/6 class.
Aly’s Grade 3/4 class came up with the idea of a school garden. They already planted warba potatoes and will soon be planting other edibles.
“We are going to give (the vegetables) to Ruth and Naomi’s,” says Aly. “They make meals to give to those who are poor and don’t have food, and we wanted to give to those people.”
Madison’s class decided to bring a composting program to the school.
“We wanted to compost to make dirt to help the gardens,” she says. “Plus, we were also wasting our fruits and vegetables by putting them in the garbage.”
The two classes came up with their ideas at the beginning of the school year and then proceeded to educate their fellow schoolmates about what they were doing.
They gathered all of the garbage bins in the school and dumped the contents onto a tarp. The kids then removed all the compostables and recyclables from the pile of garbage to show everyone what they could prevent from going into the landfill.
“We reduced our garbage by 70 per cent,” says Aly.
First Class Waste Services has donated a compost bin and free weekly compost pickup. In return for composting, the Chilliwack School District is donating compost for Greendale’s garden.
The school also has ‘water bottle weekdays’ where kids bring refillable water bottles to school every day, ‘litterless lunch Wednesdays’ where students bring reusable containers for food instead of plastic bags, and every day it’s ‘lights out lunch’ for 45 minutes.
“We turn the lights off and we eat lunch,” says Grade 4 student Jasper Sprangers. “The whole school does it.”
He doesn’t notice a difference at lunch time. “I find it the exact same,” he says.
But teacher Tammy McKinley can see a change.
“It makes things a lot calmer when kids are eating in the darkened room,” she says.
McKinley also points out that each classroom has fewer garbage bins — down to one from two. Additionally, each class has one bin for compost, one for refundable recyclable such as juice boxes, and one for other recyclables.
So what do they like about all the steps their school has made towards being green?
“It makes me feel happy because we don’t put everything in the garbage and we can reuse some stuff,” says Aly. “The dirt from the compost can go in the garden.”
“I like it because it’s making the world a better place than what it usually is,” says Madison. “And more schools are putting their stuff into the recycling.”
“The greatest thing as a teacher is that we are changing behaviours in students and in staff,” says McKinley. “We want to see the change in behaviour and they are passionate about it.”