Summit County school goes green |

Summit County school goes green

Bob Berwyn
Summit County, Colorado
Summit Daily/Bob BerwynSummit Cove Elementary student Wade Pfeiffer watches closely as fifth-graders dump their cafeteria remnants into a bucket, to be weighed later as part of a school-wide effort to reduce food waste. As part of the project, the youngsters learned how food waste generates methane, a leading greenhouse gas, as it decomposes and uses up valuable landfill space.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” Students at Summit Cove Elementary went on a green tear last week, learning how to reduce their food waste and urging each other to walk or ride their bike to school all-week long.

“Our past generations have ruined the Earth just a bit,” fifth-grader Jeanette Schlenz said with diplomatic understatement. “This should help get it back to where it should be.”

The school’s fourth-graders brainstormed the idea of tracking how much food gets tossed into the garbage cans each day, and the rest of the students joined in enthusiastically.

Each grade had a graph up on the wall, tracking how many grams of food were thrown away each day.

The graphs all spiked on Tuesday, when the cafeteria dished up tasty meatballs. Unfortunately, they were served on very stale whole wheat buns, which mostly ended up in the trash. That showed how the waste issue is something to address from all sides, both by consumers and on the supply side of the chain.

“You have to buy stuff with less packaging and use reusable lunch bags,” said fourth-grader Holly Minor while monitoring the waste being collected near the food service area.

Each grade got its own bucket, and at the end of the lunch period, students weighed the containers, helped along by teacher Debra Mitchell.

At first, the kindergarten students didn’t quite get the concept, Mitchell said. When they saw the graphs, they thought the class with the tallest bar would “win” the contest,” she explained.

But by the end of the week, all the kids were on board, trying hard to figure out ways to cut back.

“You can just take what you need when you go through the line,” said student Wade Pfeiffer, at the same time admonishing an upperclassman who was discarding a bottle cap in the garbage.

“You can recycle that part, too,” he said, picking the cap out of the bucket and handing it back.

Students identified other reasons to reduce food waste.

“There’s a lot of kids in the world who don’t have enough to eat,” said Maya Reynolds. “And you can help the environment as well. Otherwise it all just ends up in the landfill or in the rivers and ocean.”

“If I don’t eat my apple, I put it in my pocket for later. I don’t leave anything on my plate or tray,” said David Rocha.

“The kids were learning about greenhouse gases and decided they wanted to do something,” said principal Crystal Miller, explaining how the “green” week at Summit Cove started with a special assembly last Monday.

By taking part in the effort, the students were able to earn points, which were redeemable for various prizes, including energy-efficient light bulbs donated by Bighorn Materials and pine saplings donated by Neils Lunceford.

“I wasn’t expecting everyone to embrace it like this,” Mitchell said.

Students will care for the saplings over the summer and plant them in the school’s new playground next fall, she added.

Miller said she was glad to see how many students and parents participated in the program, noticeably cutting down on the number of cars in the pre- and post-school lineup.

Roads leading to the school were thronged with walkers and cyclists each day, reinforcing Summit Cove’s already strong neighborhood vibe.

“I walked to school three times,” said Madi Oberbreckling. “If you earn 15 stamps you get a small pine tree.”

Other prizes included non-permanent tattoos and “green” shopping bags. Most importantly, the students said they’ll try to incorporate the green ethic into their everyday lives even after the week-long contest is over.

“We’re going to try and keep doing it every day. We don’t care about the prizes,” Madi said.

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