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A Middle School Cafeteria Goes Green

Mar 09, 2011

Three Girl Scouts in an Austin, Texas Troop noticed that there were a lot of aluminum cans and plastic water bottles being thrown away during lunch at Clint Small Middle School. Instead of adding their own trash to the pile, Kaia Holm, Hannah Rudy and Rachel Jones decided to do something about it.

“We talked to the company that takes away our paper recycling, to the people at Keep Austin Beautiful and to our principal. From there we formed ideas about how to bring recycling to our school,” said Kaia.

While part of the decision to focus on waste management came from observing and researching, there was also a practical component to the girl’s decision to take on this project.

“We knew it was going to be a lot of work, but we also knew it was something we could do. Recycling is a way that you can make meaningful change in a small amount of time,” said Hannah.

The girls not only needed to get their recycling program implemented, they also needed to make sure students would participate in the program by recycling cans and bottles. Kaia, Hannah and Rachel came up with the idea to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA), and received permission from the school to broadcast their PSA videos during morning announcements.

“The videos were probably the hardest part, because there were so many different things to coordinate. We had to come up with a time when people could meet, find a place to film, write the script and get help with the filming and editing,” said Hannah.

Hannah, Kaia and Rachel weigh their work.

The hard work paid off. The girls did research after the project was implemented and determined that 117 pounds of recyclable materials per day were being kept out of landfills.

In an effort to get other schools to follow their lead, the Troop created booklets with information about bringing recycling to school cafeterias.

“It’s fun to know you’re starting something new,” said Rachel. “And when you start something new, and it’s this successful, you are very encouraged and hope it keeps growing and getting better.”

The girls not only succeeded in keeping recyclable material out of landfills – they also won their Silver Award and awards from both Keep Texas Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful. As a result, they have been able to spread their message further.

“I would like to see all schools take on a recycling program,” said Rachel. “Hopefully it will even be in the curriculum so that people are learning about recycling in school.”

For those that already know about the importance of recycling, but feel overwhelmed by what it would take to bring a program like this to their own school, Kaia has a message.

“You shouldn’t wait for someone else to step up, because if no one else does that isn’t very good,” she said. “The recyclables keep going to the landfill until someone does something about them.”