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School’s Out, Results are In: Springer Reduces Trash

Submitted by Beth Wolff

In mid-January, 2012, at Springer Elementary, with the full support and enthusiasm of Principal Wade Spenader, parent volunteer Beth Wolff started a lunchtime recycling and composting program. And it has been a MAJOR MAJOR success! Springer has gone from 13 overflowing trash cans every day to 1 can per day for all grades 1-6. That’s 450 kids needing only 1 can per day.  And what’s more –there is 80-90% less trash on the school grounds!!

How can this be?  Because most things are not trash!

Springer’s Success Factors:

  1. The Springer Elementary hot lunch provider, Kid Chow, gets a lot of credit. They deliver 99% garbage-free lunches. Almost everything is commercially compostable or recyclable. Almost all their “plastics” are cellulose- (plant) based and will compost in a commercial composting program.

  2. There are so many students who are voluntarily and eagerly helping in the effort. They love being responsible citizens.  These Green Team’ers are quick learners and are teaching other students what goes where.

  3. Stations are set up in the lunch areas. It’s as simple as A, B or C choices:  Either A) the Compost Bin or B) the Recycle Bin or C) the trash (Boo!). It only takes 10-15 seconds! Or less!

  4. The parent volunteer, Beth Wolff is supervising and training the kids and also she is bringing her two-96-gallon compost bins to school from her Los Altos home once a week for the organics and compostables. This is because Mountain View, where Springer is located, does not yet have a commercial composting option.

  5. Beyond the lunchtime program, Beth decided to attack one non-green thing at a time. Her first campaign was to try to replace the plastic sandwich bags used by students (ziplocs, etc.) with the “If You Care” brand non-bleached paper sandwich bags.  She bought 18 boxes as a donation and has been handing them out (either whole boxes or a handful) to the students to bring home and show their parents. Little by little we are seeing more and more of them at lunchtime!

In less than 4 months, the process has become practically automatic to the students!  In the future, less and less supervision will be needed but having a parent volunteer (or a trained student) to help answer questions is the way to go. Beth and Principal Spenader are brainstorming for next year how to set up an easy system for student volunteers (only 1-2 per day) to manage the lunchtime process and serve their school community’s green efforts.

Beth would be happy to help other schools too. For questions or clarifications, please contact Beth Wolff at If you have another school success story, please email us at

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