Sustainable Schools and Living
We don’t want students to just think about being green, we want them to collaborate and organize within their schools to live greener lives. WMEAC is able to come to your school and offer guidance on waste reduction, composting, edible schoolyards, and making choices that are good for the planet. Are you interested in incorporating the outdoors into your classroom community? We can walk through your schoolyard and find existing features that you can use to teach your curriculum.
Living green at school is a good first step, but we want students to take those habits home to families too!
Ironically, there are many different approaches to simplifying your lifestyle in order to create a more sustainable and ethical household. This page highlights a few ways to get you started including recipes for green cleaning alternatives and resources for cutting down your landfill waste. These are all great resources to start implementing in your daily life to live with a smaller footprint and create a connection with our environment.
Zero Waste Directory
Living “zero waste” means avoiding sending trash to landfills by increasing how much material you reuse, recycle, or compost. In our current consumer climate it can be quite intimidating to try and cut out single use plastics or avoid items that come in wasteful packaging but we are here to help!
WMEAC has put together a directory of West Michigan businesses and grocers that will help you decrease your waste footprint. “Low-waste” or “package-free” bulk food stores, refillerys, and sustainably minded shops provide alternatives to wasteful goods.
Zero Waste Audit form
Each item you purchase, use, and then dispose can fit into three categories or waste streams: recycling, composting, or landfill. Going zero waste starts with taking a closer look at what kinds of materials you put into each waste stream, how often you use and dispose of goods, and what local services are available to you in order to reduce your landfill footprint.
WMEAC has designed a Waste Audit that is perfect for this task! Whether you audit your classroom, household, or small business it will allow you to discover your overall waste footprint and the steps you can take to reduce the amount of material sent to landfills. A free download of our audit template will be coming soon!
Green Cleaning Guide
Tired of using complex or harmful cleaning chemicals in your household? Reducing the amount of toxic cleaners is a great way to create a holistic approach to keeping your spaces clean while advocating for your health and our environment. Stay tuned for a quick download of WMEAC’s Green Cleaning Guide for healthy and safe DIY recipes!
Vermicomposting (Composting with Worms!) - 1 hour classroom presentation or consultation
Vermicomposting is a specific type of composting that utilizes a colony of worms in order to speed up the breakdown of organic material into healthy and useful compost. If sent to a landfill, organic material like food scraps, lawn waste, or paper towels will start to decompose without oxygen because each landfill is sealed tight to prevent its contents from polluting the environment. Bacteria that consume organic matter in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment will produce methane gas: a greenhouse gas that is over 25 times stronger than CO2 in warming the atmosphere. Instead we should cycle the nutrients that remain in food scraps and transform it into compost like nature intended.
At the WMEAC office we maintain a small vermicomposting operation that is perfect for household kitchen scraps or lunch waste in a classroom. The worms live in a 90 quart Sterilite tub (roughly 30” by 18”) and produce no odor when properly maintained. If you are interested in starting your own vermicomposting operation to reduce the amount of food or other organic waste in our landfills then we can help! We offer classroom demonstrations of our worm bin that will get your students thinking about how decomposers provide a vital service in our environment and how they can reduce their waste footprint by composting.
If you are interested in learning more about vermicomposting or reducing your landfill waste please contact Kyle Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Product Life Cycles- 1 hour classroom presentation or virtual lesson
If you ask a child where applesauce comes from they might say the grocery store. From their perspective that is a reasonable answer but we all know that the store is only the middle man between producers and consumers. So what happens before the store?
This activity explores the full life cycle of products we might take for granted and allows us to compare and contrast the energy use, transportation, and packaging between low-impact and high-impact goods. Mapping all the steps and inputs required to process and distribute products this activity is the first step to reducing our impact and landfill waste.
WMEAC can provide a kit for your classroom to compare and contrast two goods. A virtual lesson plan will be available for download soon!
ReImagine Trash with the Kent County Department of Public Works (DPW)
The Kent County Recycling and Education Center (KCREC) is the primary materials recovery facility for residential recyclables generated in homes throughout West Michigan. A materials recovery facility, or MRF (pronounced murf), is a facility where recycling from curbside bins and drop-off recycling centers is sorted and prepared to be sold to processors and end-users.
Their website offers resources on the basics of recycling, downloadable guides to recycling at home, and a directory of all possible items that can be recycled in Kent County. The DPW also offers FREE tours of their recycling facility, waste-to-energy facility, and the South Kent landfill. Your students can walk through the sorting facility and watch first hand how recyclables are sorted according to material type, then prepared for shipping to the next processor by pressing the recyclables into bales.
Tours are approximately one hour in length and include a classroom discussion about recycling as well as a facility overview on the observation deck overlooking the functioning equipment. The facility offers a safe, clean environment to learn about recycling. Tour times are available when the KCREC is running, between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday. Closed-toe shoes are required for this tour.
Check them out here: reimaginetrash.org
Free Lessons and ACtivities
These materials are appropriate for all ages! Stay tuned as we update this section with more resources.