In competition, Bellevue schools cut cafeteria waste dramatically

The high-fivin' Carbon Yeti

In competition, Bellevue schools cut cafeteria waste dramatically

In its sixth year, the Green Genius Cafeteria Challenge inspired students at 20 Bellevue schools to cut their lunch waste collectively to just 10 percent of the national average.

Puesta del Sol Elementary School took first place among the participating elementary schools, with its students averaging just 2.7 grams of garbage — the weight of a penny — on contest day (Nov. 17). Students at the other first-place schools, Sammamish High School and Chinook Middle School, generated about 14 grams of waste that day — the weight of two quarters.

“This long-standing program has contributed to ingrained and sustained zero waste in Bellevue schools,” said Jennifer Goodhart, conservation and outreach administrator with the city. “The schools love the competition and the results speak for themselves. The city and the school district have a strong and successful relationship with resource conservation programs.”

Bellevue Utilities and the Bellevue School District cosponsor the Green Genius Challenge each November for America Recycles Day. The 20 schools that participated, more than any other year, represented almost 14,000 students and staff.

The garbage generated by the students at those schools would average under 7 pounds for an entire year, compared to the 67 pounds of lunch waste generated annually by the average American student, according to the EPA.

In the weeks leading up to contest day, staff and students used many strategies to motivate including: student presentations, assemblies, posters, announcements, costumes, progress charts and competitions between grades. An updated how-to video from the city also helped. Students, teachers and even custodians taught students how to sort their stuff into compost, recyclables and trash.

Schools weighed their garbage on contest day, with the schools with the lowest garbage per student winning prizes, while the waste reduction behaviors continue throughout the school year. Puesta del Sol will get lunch with the “Carbon Yeti,” Bellevue Utilities’ furry, friendly mascot.

The participating elementary schools were: Ardmore, Bennett, Cherry Crest, Clyde Hill, Eastgate, Enatai, Jing Mei, Medina, Newport Heights, Phantom Lake, Puesta del Sol, Somerset, Spiritridge and Woodridge. The middle schools were: Chinook, Highland and Odle. The high schools were: Newport and Sammamish. International School has middle and high-school grades.

Cherry Crest Elementary took second place, with 3.6 grams of waste per student, less than the weight of a nickel. Bennett, Enatai and Somerset elementary tied for third place, with 4.5 grams of waste per student.
Published on 12/06/2017
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