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Thunder Mountain honored for its move to go green

King County recently acknowledged Enumclaw’s Thunder Mountain Middle School for the waste reduction and recycling program it began with its eighth-grade class in 2008.

As part of its Green Schools Program, the county has helped more than 450 schools cut waste since its inception in 2003.

“Each of these eight schools can be proud of how it involves students and staff in learning about conservation and improving conservation practices,” said Dale Alekel, King County Green Schools Program manager.

Thunder Mountain was one of eight schools to complete Level One of the program, which is focused on waste reduction and recycling. In addition to setting up effective recycling programs and achieving a recycling rate of 40 percent or higher, Level One schools complete at least one paper reduction practice, one lunch waste reduction practice and one practice involving durable products.

According to teacher Melanie Hanson, Thunder Mountain continues the program initiated by her science class.

The idea spawned fromstudents who were studying ecology and frustrated by the lack of recycling at the school.

“The only thing we were recycling at the time was paper in the building,” Hanson said. “The whole objective was to get a program going.”

At that time, through an increase in classroom recycling and the addition of can and bottle recycling in the lunchroom, Thunder Mountain increased its recycling rate from 28 percent to 48 percent, an improvement of 71 percent.

Students also organized a No Print day to increase awareness of paper waste at school.

The eighth-grade science classes regularly remind students about proper recycling through posters and announcements.

During the school year, students performed skits in the lunchroom to promote cafeteria recycling.

The school replaced plastic-wrapped utensils with unwrapped utensils and straws.

Students organized a Zero Waste locker clean-out to gather unwanted items for reuse or recycling.

Hanson said it’s nice to have the program honored, but the real benefit is the kids continue the program today. It’s become part of the culture with the leadership class taking over the effort. Not long ago, as part of the continuing effort, the cafeteria has switched from Styrofoam trays to reusable plastic trays.

Enumclaw’s Southwood Elementary School achieved Level One status in 2009, while Black Diamond Elementary School received the county’s “Earth Heroes at School” award that same year.

The Green Schools Program provides hands-on assistance, recycling containers and stickers, and the support needed to set up and maintain effective conservation practices. Participation in the program has grown each year, with 114 schools and nine school districts participating in 2010-11.

Although the program has helped more than 450 schools since its inception in 2003, distinct program levels were started in 2008. Since then, 93 schools have completed a program level.

Schools interested in improving their conservation practices and receiving assistance can contact Alekel at dale.alekel@kingcounty.gov.

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