It is inspiring to see how schools in Chicago and throughout the country are committed to lead a new generation to create a more sustainable future. Schools such as Holmes Elementary in Oak Park, Illinois have launched a Zero Waste Initiative in with SEVEN Generations Ahead (SGA), a nonprofit organization in Oak Park, Illinois that specializes in sustainable community development.
The program, implemented in 2007 teaches students to focus on 3 primary objectives:
a) Eliminating waste at its source;
b) Increasing recycling;
c) Converting food residuals into compost.
The Zero Waste Initiative is led by the “Holmes Waste Ambassadors” — a group of 4th grade students who are responsible for promoting their zero waste efforts to other students, teachers, parents and visitors to the school.
These young students are committed to:
- Monitoring and maintaining worm bins and recycling and trash;
- Sorting paper in the classroom to ensure paper is not wasted;
- Maintaining a waste free cafeteria by separating food waste, recyclables and trash.
The program has also led to other environmentally friendly changes such as eliminating disposable dishes in the cafeteria; utilizing on-line technology to eliminate paper waste; encouraging waste free home lunches; installing hand dryers; and improving recycling efforts
The program has received a lot of positive attention and was recently covered in Chicago Parent Magazine!
Another local school making a difference is Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago. Through their Environmental Stewardship program, the school practices reduce, reuse, recycle and composting strategies through daily routines and curriculum integration.
Highlights of this program include:
- Recycle, waste, compost and vermi bins throughout the school;
- An organic cafeteria and school yard garden;
- Schoolyard chickens;
- worm-bins in each classroom that produce nutrient rich compost for use in their garden.
The commitment to bringing environmental sustainability into the classroom is encouraging and we think this will be an important part of future school curriculum. Teaching Safari is also developing programs and has introduced the Green is Good program to help schools meet these objectives and teach students the value and benefits of growing your own garden!