At our 2013 Green Schools National Conference, we scheduled several work sessions – we called them “Solutions Summits” — designed to create action plans targeting several key issues: healthy food in schools, the impact of the physical environment on student achievement; reducing cost and energy consumption via policy, practice, and behavior; and creating resilient communities. This month, we take a look back at the session focused on “Moving Toward Zero Waste in Schools,” moderated by Kelley Dennings at Keep America Beautiful.

This highly interactive summit included a lightening panel round with speakers from all aspects of this issue: haulers, bin and decal manufacturers, zero waste school reps, carton recyclers, behavior change specialists and others. The goal was to create a plan for further follow-up to be organized and convened by Keep America Beautiful.

While discussion notes are available via the moderator (email Kelley at, we’re pleased to highlight a few solutions that seemed to be more feasible for starting a conversation or of greater interest to participants.

Those solutions are:


  • Work with Association of Global Custodians (or other trade association) to incentivize participation in school recycling programs
  • Compile good resources to build a toolkit for engagement solutions.  Partner on building and/or promoting Professional Development for teachers that provides environment integrating context (EIC) and connects recycling to service learning and educational standards.   If any funders are out there…we have curriculum developers ready and willing to do the work!  Consider a grant to GSNN for this project!
  • RFP Model for haulers: include pieces on education, equipment, tools for staff  training & buy-in, small hauler/ low bid, hauler reporting requirements (such as scales) and promote to associations that do contracting.
  • Conduct a national school recycling study or compile literature.  Stay tuned for a research page on our website to be launched in November 2013!
  • Build consistent methodology for paid/staff helpers to conduct your own waste assessment

We’d also like to give a shout-out to the 2013 Solution Summit panel, who took the time to share their expertise and brainpower on this very critical issue. Thanks to:

Chris McBrien, Bush Systems
Byron Chafin, Waste Management
Laura Hickey, National Wildlife Federation
John Jaimez, Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services
Kaitlin Phelps, The Environmental Motivation Project
Michele Wagner, Carton Council