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Recycle Guys

Waste Reduction At School

Young people are learning more and more about the importance of protecting our natural environment and resources.  Many of them are working with teachers and administrative staff to implement environmental programs in their schools. 

Students gain knowledge about environmental issues, acquire organizational skills and discover they can make a difference by implementing the 3 R's (reduce, reuse and recycle) in school.

Below are waste reduction suggestions that can be implemented in offices and classrooms around the school.


  • Use double-sided photocopies to reduce paper consumption.
  • Circulate memos via routing slips instead of sending out individual copies.
  • Use overheads, marker boards, or blackboards instead of paper flipcharts in meetings.
  • Convey messages via homeroom representatives or over the public address system.
  • Purchase office and classroom supplies in bulk.


  • Use refillable pens and pencils.
  • Reuse old cardboard boxes for storage or for packaging outgoing materials.
  • Reuse file folders by reversing the folders or applying new labels.
  • Reuse envelopes for internal mailings or filing.
  • Post announcements on central message boards.
  • Use single-sided sheets of paper as scrap paper for calculations or rough notes.
  • Send used books and office equipment to a local charity or social service agency.
  • Form a waste exchange within the school or among several schools to enable students and staff to find new homes for unwanted books, clothing, jewelry, sports equipment and other items.
  • Take advantage of "student power" (i.e. students in detention could spend the time repairing damaged furniture or sorting items for recycling).


  • Set up bins or boxes for fine paper and recyclables in offices and classrooms.  Waste-Not Recycling currently has the recycling collection contract with the Poudre R-1 School District.  Set up recycling bins for cans and bottles in convenient locations.
  • Try vermicomposting (composting with worms) small quantities of food scraps in the classroom, perhaps as a part of a science project.
  • Close the recycling loop:  purchase office and classroom supplies such as writing paper, books, paints, and toner cartridges that have recycled content.

Waste Reduction Week
Start a Waste Reduction Week at your school.  Here are some activity and event ideas that you can hold in your school to demonstrate your commitment to waste reduction.  Each day has a theme during Waste Reduction Week to help you organize events.  Pick just one day or hold events on each theme day.

Monday is Reduction Day

  • Go on a supermarket tour to review purchasing habits and learn how to recognize and reduce over packaging.
  • Conduct a classroom or school waste audit.
  • Start a waste reduction newsletter.

Tuesday is Compost Day

  • Build backyard compost bins or indoor vermicomposters (worm composters) for food, yard and leaf waste produced at your school. Plant an organic garden of native plant species and nourish it with finished compost--it will look nicer than grass, use  less waster and will not require the use of pesticides. 
  • Have shop class make some bird houses to attract wildlife to the site.
  • Go on a tour of a compost facility (Hageman Earth Cycle at 3501 E. Prospect, 221-7173), the Larimer County Recycling Center at 5887 South Taft Hill Road, 226-1101, or the Larimer County Landfill at 5887 South Taft Hill Road, 498-5760.

Wednesday is Zero Garbage Day

Celebrate Zero Garbage Day:  challenge classes to see which group can keep garbage generation to a minimum. Encourage wasteless lunches. Remove garbage cans from all classrooms and common areas and give each student a plastic bag to wear around his/her waist to collect the garbage that he/she produces. At the end of the day, award a prize to the student with the smallest bag, or get students to study the contents of the bags of garbage and make recommendations on how to reduce their waste.

Thursday is Conservation Day

  • Hold a tree planting event--make it personal by planting trees equal to the amount of paper used by your school each year for the number of books in the library, or the number of final exams printed.  (Use a rough calculation of 17 trees for each ton of paper).
  • Hold an alternative transportation challenge--within your school or against another school to see how many people (including staff and students) can walk, ride their bikes or take the bus.  Allow car-poolers and cyclists to have an extra long lunch hour or offer prizes to the winning class.
  • Green the School--put pollution-eating plants to work in as many rooms as possible.  Call the City of Fort Collins Natural Resources Department, Air Quality section, for a list of plants that improve indoor air quality.

Friday is Reuse or Exchange Day

  • Organize a giant garage sale or a sporting goods exchange as a fundraiser.
  • Organize a clothing drive with collected items to be donated to social service organizations.
  • Collect one-sided paper from photocopiers and make it into scratch pads for math or art classes.

Saturday is Clean-up Day

  • Have classes/students adopt a section of the school property and pledge to keep it litter-free throughout the year.
  • Encourage students to use home-made toxic-free cleaning solutions in the home.  Contact the Larimer County Household Hazardous Waste Facility for information.