Fairview High School has become the first full-size high school in Colorado to receive Green Star designation from Boulder-based Eco-Cycle. The nationally recognized zero waste education program helps schools become waste-free facilities while providing long-term education to students about the environmental benefits and consequences of our consumer actions.
The organization provides its Green Star schools with the necessary compost and recycle bins and “Eco-cycle presents in classes for free,” says Kim Orr, Eco-cycle’s Green Star Schools Program Director. “Topics include everything from clean air to clean water to hazardous waste, not just composting and recycling.”
At the moment, composting and recycling are the main attractions at the high school. Senior class president Anya Aidun points out the compost bin, “and this is what’s new, along with the return cart for the durables.”
The durables, Student Council Vice President Lea Martinson says, are the place settings – plates and bowls, utensils and trays – all of which have replaced single-use plastics previously used in the school cafeteria.
“We hope that our diversion rate to the landfill drops and that everyone is more mindful of the effect their waste has on the environment,” says Aidun of the recent changes.
Adds Martinson, she hopes they can be a positive example for other high schools and communities around the country. “Because our school is so big, we kind of have the sample size of a small town.”
At more than 2,100 students and staff, Fairview High School operates like a small town, in so far as trash collection is concerned. Eco-cycle hauls all the school’s compost and recycling weekly. “Every Saturday, their compost is picked up and we track that and weigh that and collect that data monthly,” explains Orr. Eco-cycle will compile that data, along with measuring the depth of garbage in the trash bins, to determine how effective the school’s diversion rate and education programs are.
But there is a price to doing good. “In general, it costs $15,000 to bring a school into the program,” says Orr. She expects it will be more for a high school as large as Fairview. “And then there are yearly maintenance fees of about $3,000.” Translation: maintenance alone is more than $150,000 annually for all the schools currently in the program.
So far, Fairview students say they’ve noticed their peers deliberately dumping food waste in the compost bins. “We’ve been pretty impressed with what we’ve seen in just the first week,” says Aidun, “but we have a lot of education to do, too.”