North Tapps Middle School is adding green to its school colors.
On June 3, North Tapps officially became a level one green school with Washington Green Schools, joining the ranks of 350 other school in Washington that have committed to at least one avenue of environmental sustainability.
Ryan Dicks, a board member with Washington Green Schools and the sustainability manager for Pierce County, presented the school with the official Green School flag.
“You’re part of 67,000 kids around the state that are part of Washington Green Schools,” Dicks told the students who gathered in the gym for the presentation assembly. “You are doing a lot to keep our planet healthy. It really takes a team effort.”
According to parent volunteer Stephanie Delaurenti, the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association approached the school district with the idea to become a green school back in December.
Delaurenti said they chose to focus on waste reduction because she had been a volunteer with the King County Master Recycler Composter program for the past 15 years and was on the King County Solid Waste Advisory Committee for three years.
After getting in touch with Washington Green Schools, North Tapps formed a new Green Team mostly composed of student volunteers and did a random trash sort to figure out how many recyclables are being thrown out as trash.
Heather Welton is one of the students who volunteered to be on the Green Team and participate in the trash sort. She got involved with the Green Team in order to work towards her silver award for the Girl Scouts.
“It was kind of nasty, because there was food on everything,” Heather said.
Heather was surprised to discover more than 74 gallons of recyclable material was thrown out on that day with the trash.
“It’s kind of amazing to see how much stuff wasn’t recycled,” Heather said. “I understand that before, we didn’t have recycling bins in the cafeteria, but there still could have been an effort made to recycle.”
At that point, the Green Team’s job was to educate students on how to properly recycle.
“We made posters. I did a weekly fun fact for our PTSA newsletter. We sent a memo for every teacher asking them to improve their recycling in their classroom,” Delaurenti said. “That was a really major change.”
By their second random trash sort, the Green Team only found 19.5 gallons of recyclables in the trash.
“We have a 6 cubic yard dumpster being dumped twice a week, and that was all garbage going to the landfill,” Delaurenti said. “We reduced enough that we suggest to go to a 4 cubic yard dumpster twice a week to go to the landfill.”
Not only will that reduce trash put out by the school by 4 cubic yards a week (or around 114 cubic yards a year), but the smaller dumpster also saves the school about $200 a month, according to Delaurenti.
The middle school also installed a water bottle refill station at the school in April, which keeps track of how many times it is used during a day.
On the first day, students saved more than 250 recyclable water bottles from being tossed by using the refill station.
By the time North Tapps received the green school award, the refill station recorded saving more than 6,000 water bottles.
To become a level two green school, the school must now focus on a different area of sustainability; energy, water, transportation, school gardens or healthy school buildings.
“The very same day we had out assembly, I had two girls come up and tell me they just got elected to a ASB position and they wanted to take on some new projects,” Delaurenti said. “So I think there is going to be great success next year.”