By Amy Bounds Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 03/01/2011 08:22:00 PM MST
Fairview High School students went Dumpster diving to find out how well the school was using its recycling bins.
They found that recyclables routinely ended up in the trash, while the recycling bins were often contaminated with items that couldn't be recycled. They also audited the trash cans, finding that the ratio of trash cans to recycling bins was too high. Some recycling also ended up in the garbage Dumpster at the end of each day because the recycling container outside the school was too small.
To improve the recycling rate, they petitioned EcoCycle for a larger recycling container. They also created recycling stations, combining a trash can and recycling bin in the same spot. To add recycling bins on the cheap, they spray-painted trash can lids.
Their efforts to improve recycling, combined with a large tree-planting project, netted Fairview's "Net Zero" environmental club a national Environmental Protection Agency award.
"We put a lot of work into it," said junior and club co-president Jennifer Zhu. "It's nice to be recognized."
The award was presented to the students Tuesday by two EPA representatives, who also took a tour of the school to see the students' green efforts firsthand.
"The things you have done here are truly amazing," EPA spokesman Larry Grandison told the students. "We probably need to have you come out and teach us."
The EPA gives 10 awards each year to schools and youth organizations across the country to recognize environmental stewardship projects. In the past, winners have traveled to Washington to receive the award. This year, because of budget cuts, awards were presented at the schools.
The Fairview award was given to the 14 Fairview students in the club, plus two who have graduated. The club was first started by students at Boulder's Summit Middle School. When the students moved on to Fairview, they continued the club there.
At Fairview, the students raised about $3,000 to buy 59 trees through an adopt-a-tree program, then recruited 150 student volunteers to help with planting and watering. They've written grants for projects, surveyed students and made presentations. They also collect teachers' junk mail and call the companies to have the teachers removed from their mailing lists.
Next up, the students are hoping to turn Fairview into the school district's first zero-waste high school.
"We want to make Fairview more green," said Fairview junior Hannah Karpel. "Hopefully, it will keep going."
Read more: Boulder's Fairview High environmental club wins EPA award