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Students, faculty, custodial staff and parent volunteers at Aldo Leopold Elementary School, Madison’s largest elementary school, have built a sustainable Cafeteria Recycling/Waste Reduction Program that is netting big gains. In the first four months of the school year, the Cafeteria Recycling/Waste Reduction Program has kept an estimated 3,500 bags of trash from going to a landfill. As a result, so far Leopold School has been able to reduce its trash pickups from daily to 3 times/week.
On January 16th, at 10:00am, the cities of Madison and Fitchburg will be presenting a plaque to Leopold School for their recycling achievement. Madison’s Recycling Coordinator, Bryan Johnson, and Fitchburg’s Mayor, Jason Gonzalez, will be presenting the plaque to Leopold School’s principal, Peg Keeler at the school. Steve Youngbauer, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition Director will also be making some remarks.
Parent volunteer Chris Jimieson explained “Stacking disposable trays and carton (milk and juice) recycling are the key drivers for the waste reduction. When the trays are stacked together they require fewer garbage bags and take considerably less space in the trash. When you multiply that reduction across the district’s elementary schools, there is great potential for savings in garbage bags and waste hauling district-wide.”
As a result of their regular monitoring, Leopold’s recycling team has been able to make adjustments and develop tools to increase the school’s recycling rate, reduce landfill volume and improve the school's ability to self-sustain these efforts. Kim Warkentin, another parent volunteer, remarked “It has been very rewarding to see the students carrying on Aldo Leopold’s legacy of conservation by taking pride and ownership of the cafeteria recycling effort while making a huge impact on the environment, school and community.”
Another key to the program’s success has been the involvement of the MMSD’s Food and Nutrition team. Continuous feedback between the recycling volunteers and the Food and Nutrition team has helped not only Leopold’s success but has also sparked some improvements district wide, such as a large reduction in the number of plastic straws being used across the district.
Chris, Kim and the rest of the volunteers hope some of the other concepts from this initiative will benefit other schools in the district and perhaps the state and most importantly empower students to be better stewards of the environment through recycling.
Fitchburg Resource Conservation Commission Chair: Chris Jimieson, 608-212-7496, firstname.lastname@example.org
City of Fitchburg Sustainability Specialist: Ellen Geisler, 608-270-4274, email@example.com
MMSD Contact: Rachel Strauch-Nelson, 608-663-1903, firstname.lastname@example.org