Eagle County Schools launches program to reduce its landfill waste by 70% | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools launches program to reduce its landfill waste by 70%

The program will roll out over three years and aim to increase recycling, composting and other waste and energy reduction efforts

A trash truck dumps its load at the Eagle County Landfill.
Daily file photo

Eagle County Schools is resuming its commitment to waste reduction after the pandemic derailed its initial timeline. The district says it will attempt to reduce its current landfill waste by 70% in three years through the implementation of a district-wide waste reduction program.

At the March 11, 2020 meeting of the Eagle County Board of Education, the board voted to establish “Green Teams” at each of the district’s schools. Funded by the Secure Rural School grant dollars, the program is aimed at helping schools reduce landfill waste and increase recycling. However, the program is launching a year later after the onset of COVID-19 delayed last year’s launch.

This May, Green Team leaders — who are staff members that have been appointed by school principals to champion the programs — will begin collecting baseline data and conducting waste audits at their schools. This data will help identify the amount of recyclable materials and compostable items currently being sent to the landfill and identify pathways for improvement. This data will also serve as a way to monitor the success of the program as it continues.

The Green Team leaders will also be creating student-focused Green Teams that will help share educational messages and goals for the waste reduction program at their schools.

According to a presentation from Drew Musser, a Brush Creek Elementary School teacher and a district Green Team leader, at the March 11, 2020 Board of Education meeting, the program will rely on the dedicated Green Team leaders, custodial and student engagement, increased recycling infrastructure, funding and annual waste audits to be successful.

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During this presentation, Musser highlighted the importance of starting small and growing the program with additional efforts each year.

The program outlines a three-year plan to reduce waste in Eagle County Schools. The first year will be focused on implementing comprehensive recycling efforts, including adding appropriate bins, supplies and signage around recycling. The second year will add composting programs at school buildings. And the third year will enhance sustainable education efforts at schools for additional waste and energy reduction.

Teaming up with the Climate Action Collaborative

The program is part of a greater collaboration between the district and the Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative. Kate Cocchiarella, the Eagle County school board president, signed a letter of intent joining this collaborative and agreeing to support its Climate Action Plan initiatives in December 2017. This collaboration includes a commitment to create a “vibrant, low-carbon regional economy by transforming energy systems, buildings, transportation, waste management, and through coordinated education and outreach strategies.”

How does landfill waste reduction fit within the plans for creating a low-carbon environment? The decomposition of organic material in landfills results in the creation of a gas that is 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide. According to the United States Environmental Protection Energy, landfills represent the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States.

Methane emissions from landfills in 2018 were the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 20.6 million passenger vehicles driven for one year or the carbon dioxide emissions from a year of energy use in 11 million homes. Reducing these landfill gas emissions could go a long way.

The Eagle County Climate Action Plan goals around waste and education include diverting 80% of organics currently landfilled by 2030, promoting programs and infrastructure that increase recycling and composting and establishing recycling and composting programs in all schools in Eagle County.

Schools, and more importantly students, represent a crucial population when it comes to achieving the goals set out by the Eagle County Climate Action Plan. The hope is that engaging and educating students, especially starting at a young age, on the process of waste reduction will ultimately lead to a brighter future with them leading the charge.

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