Archive for June, 2008

How Low Can You Go? Waste & Toxicity Reduction Grant Award Pilot Project at Highlands

How the Pilot Project may affect your class, home or group and how you can get directly involved in the transformation?

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Rethink and ROT for a sustainable community at Highlands.
Recycle-In class rooms: paper, cans, bottles, 2nd Chance paper but a reduction message driving the recycling.  A Recycling Nook set up in the school (batteries, printer cartridges, and educational information wall mounted pamphlet space, for info on eco-practices like composting, packing a low-waste lunch and proper CFL and hazardous waste procedures).

Reduce-Paper and communications like the directory, carnival and strep notifications moved to on-line.  Kung Fu flyer in back packs with consent only. mail and junk mail reduction.  The average household gets 41 pounds of junk mail per week.  Further paper reduction. A  2nd Chance Paper Bin set up in rooms and offices.

Reuse-Rinse and reuse plastic baggies for class projects, look for an alternative to projects and order compost able corn-based cups, Eco-friendly class party packs in every class room to be managed by the room parent: 25 school lunch trays, 25 cloth napkins, 25 reusable flatware and kids encouraged to bring each day a reusable beverage container.  Discourage individual water bottles and make drinks from powder in a pitcher or kids can drink water from their water bottles.

The pilot projects theme is, How Low Can You Go? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, ReThink and ROT.  REUSE cloth shopping totes, cloth napkins, containers vs. plastic baggies, reusable beverage containers modeled and encouraged.  Model to students and other staff by bringing a Zero Waste Lunch to school, committing to reusable and always having shopping totes in the car.

Further cafeteria lunch waste reduction through meetings with Jay Willemssen from the district, Mary Lombardi at Sodexo, and Jennifer Livingston, our school representative on the Food Service Committee.  ReThink packaging and elimination of juice and other non-recyclables for a greener Sodexo food service.

ROT-Continue organics composting in cafeteria and individual buckets in office and rooms to be taken down by Green Ambassadors to the organics recycling in the cafeteria.  Education on backyard composting.  Vierkant curbside organics and yard waste garbage service for homes.   New compost ball and playground recess/fruit break compost/garden.  Vermiculture/worm bins in classes and the promotion of zero waste “nutrition breaks” tossed into compost.

And more….More education on bulk shopping and reusable containers for lunches.  Highlands school carnival greener.  Reusable bags as standard practice when shopping.  Take a “no plastics” pledge.  Politely decline plastic donations and take the item but ask the giver to take the plastic packaging away.  This is an uncomfortable thing for some but it is an opportunity to keep your space free from unwanted plastic waste and educate someone at the same time.  Question: Paper or Plastic?  Answer: Reusable cloth tote.

Toxicity reduction with the school-wide encouraged practice of making and using Alice’s Wonder Spray for your all purpose non-toxic cleaner.  Clean with reusable cloths.

TODAY Tuesday at 2:00 pm at Southview middle school in Edina for those individuals who want in on this project. We need dedicated people.

Funding for this project was provided by Hennepin County through Community POWER: Partners on Waste Education and Reduction. Holly Grimm and Mike Seaman of Continuous Progress, and Lori Racek and Dan Baier of the Discovery Program will be implementing a $8,500.00 grant pilot project at Highlands in the 2008-2009 school year.

The idea for the concept came at the same time the school cafeteria began organics recycling. A mom thought, “Well how can we support lowering waste contribution on the homefront?” Children that would normally bring their lunch to school will be outfitted with a complete zero waste lunch kit: A reusable Sigg water bottle, a Bento LapTop lunch box, a LL Bean insulated tote and a set of 5 Monday through Friday cloth napkins with different appliques, called Fabkins.

Other low waste practices will be taught and encouraged in the class room like zero waste celebrations and a plastics free environment. Bottled water is banned from the class and a reusable water bottle provided for each child.

The main focus of the project is looking for ways to lower toxicity and waste in the class environment and hopfully this will transfer those behaviors to the home life as well.

Green Gaurdian is a non-profit that educates on waste and toxicity reduction. They are managing the grant at Highlands. Green Gaurdian asks you to take a quick quiz to evaluate your enviro IQ? Do you have what it takes to save planet earth?

Rethink Recycling - Are you Green?  Take the Quiz.  Learn More.


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Summertime…and the livin’ is easy!

How can our family eat dinner outside and make it zero waste, and easy to do?

A Highlands parent recently shared with me about how great and simple it is to eat family dinners outside. She has set it up so that it is even easier to have dinner (before dusk and the mosquitos descend), by doing a little prep work ahead of time. She has a water cooler outside and always on tap, with a stack of reusable cups. She just leaves that outside most days and that limits the kids and company from coming in for the water breaks before heading back out to the fun. Then she serves dinner family style and has a stack of little plates that she calls dining “tapas style.”

At dinner time, they bring out just one large serving tray, this night it was salmon, brown rice and steamed broccoli, and a large serving spoon, little plates and forks and the beverage (water), is already out there. She commented that her kids liked serving themselves and with the smaller plates, everyone ate a healthy portion. They committed to cloth napkins which if not dirty, she reuses and line dries.

If she has Gary Vierkant for her garbage service, then she will just put her food scraps in their organics recycling or in containers for leftovers.

Voila! An easy and enjoyable zero waste outdoors, dining al fresco!

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EcoKids Backyard Playdate in a Tee Pee

Ever wondered what to do with those sticks, limbs, and tree trimmings? See what your kids can come up with. Tomorrow morning you are invited to play in a tee pee and maybe have your child’s picture in the Star Tribune paper. A photographer from the Trib will be taking pictures of kids in my backyard engaged in natural play.

Friday the 13th at 9:45 till whenever. for directions

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TONIGHT at 7PM Wine and Discussion of Richard Louv’s The Last Child in the Woods

Join Highlands Green Conversationalist and Mary Jane Smeltanka from the Star Tribune, Joni Bennett from the Edina City Council and other civic leaders as we discuss how to weave more natural experiences into our homes, schools, and community. You DO NOT have to have read the book. We will use the book as a great jumping off point for looking towards the future of Edina schools, parks, and spaces in a more local, green and sustainable way.

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Today, June 5th is World Environment Day

The United Nations has coined today World Environment Day. Each and every person will need to make individual change for us to turn the proverbial bus around.

At Highlands school, collective change is being made for a more carbon neutral school footprint. For this civilization to neutralize the current state of climate unsustainability, everyone has got to change something. Here are a few ideas…

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How do you get there?

A great way to help the environment is to shake up your transportation routine. Try another and cleaner form of getting the kids to school, once a week? Once a month? Getting to school is a big area of greening that Highlands has room to improve upon. It is hard because we have just one entrance and exit for buses, cars, bikers, and walkers. Sometimes driving is the only option but, can you get your kids to school in a more eco-friendly manner?

Walk, bus, bike, organize an occasional group walk or bike. If you drive, please turn off your engine and don’t idle.

I biked with my 3 children last week to school, and it was rather dicey to say the least. Granted, it was me and child number 1 attached to a tag-a-long, and then child number 2 attached to the burley being pulled by the tag-a-long, and me on the bike. We looked like a locomotive. Child number 3 was biking behind our train-sized, biking system (and trying to dodge buses and crazy traffic), with no shoulder to ride on for a short but scary stretch of Doncaster. Kirk Johnson from Bike Edina, is lobbying with the City of Edina Bike Task Force to make Edina a more cyclist-friendly community. He wants feedback and is seeking volunteers to become involved in advocating for this change.

Doncaster is having a sidewalk put in on the east side of the street leading into Highlands, that will be a great improvement! We can do our part to lower congestion by putting our children on a bus, if it is available to us. Ride bikes, if it is doable. Walk to school once in a while or organize a carpool. Even one less car in the mix will help the whole system flow better and safer!

What we all individually choose to do adds up to a large collective sum. Rethink how your kids get to school is one change we can make to improve our communal morning drop off and pick up experience.

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Take a No Plastics Pledge

Highlands school discontinued the sale of bottled water in the cafeteria this past year. We can support the effort by refusing to buy plastic bottled beverages. The landfills are just one of the environmental problems that plastics has caused in the past 40 years of accumulation.

The Garbage Patch is an area in the Pacific ocean that has accumulated 40 years worth of plastics due to the swirling direction of the ocean’s currents. Plastic everything has gathered at this location, pulling plastic-trash in like a vortex of unnatural wonder.

These plastics contain bisphenol A and the fish mistake the bits of plastic for plankton and we eat the fish.

Sound scary? Take a No Plastics Pledge and don’t add to an already twice the size of Texas problem. When the clerk says, “Paper or plastic?” Say, “Neither.”

What else can I do?

Take a No Plastics Pledge

Have a stash of reusable bags with you when you shop. Don’t buy goods wrapped in plastics. Entertain, host a breakfast, dinner or party without plastic anything. When you donate something to Highlands school leave out the plastic or shop for an alternative. If you provide a snack for a school party, try and do it in a zero waste, plastics-free manner. Never buy plastic bottled drinks. Graciously accept a gift or donation, but explain why you must not accept the packaging it was contained in. Taking a “no plastics pledge” means that you will not buy or accept into your classroom or home anything that is plastic.

Kindly ask the gift giver to take away the plastic it came in, and use the moment to educate one more person about the Pacific Garbage Patch that affects all living things. Plastic breaks down into brittle bits (that fish mistake for plankton) but remains in landfills and eventually collects in the Pacific Garbage Patch forever.

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