Program Highlights

Environmental education programs in the schools and community have an impact that extends beyond the classroom.
Environmental classroom posters

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 filters.

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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