Encouraging recycling in schools helps prepare students for a lifetime of sustainable living. Some schools strive for the bare minimum in recycling efforts, while others go the extra mile. When schools embrace higher sustainability as a goal, it results in better educated students, more funds, and a healthier community. While you discover some recycling efforts happening in different areas of the country, consider also the recycling impact of a crayon donation to a children's hospital.
Munster High – Munster, Indiana
Munster High in Indiana worked with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to build a recycling collection program that increased awareness and educated the student body about recycling. The school contracts with a local recycling center to buy dumpsters and maintains a regular recycling schedule to increase recycling efforts.
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District – Truckee, California
The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District maintains a Sustainability and Energy Conservation Program that helps reduce California’s troublesome CO2 emissions and saves the school money. Annually, the school saves over $400,000 in electricity and an additional $50,000 through recycling efforts. Efforts include waste diversion, green cleaning techniques, enhanced heating systems, solar panels on buildings, and more to come in the future.
Arlington Public Schools – Arlington, Virginia
Arlington Public Schools have a standard recycling system, but they add student education. They place recycling containers in easily accessible areas for students while the school provides fun ways to help improve recycling efforts. A coordinator at each school handles engagement plans to get students on board. Education materials — such as posters, books, websites, YouTube videos, and fun songs — encourage student participation.
North Hills (P.S. 221) – Little Neck, New York
The North Hills Elementary School, also called P.S. 221, won the GrowNYC Recycling Champions Program’s Super Recyclers Contest. The school built recycling stations for every room in the building, put compost bins in the cafeteria, and initiated an upcycling program.
They documented their recycling efforts using social media, helping others learn how to do it in their schools.
River’s Edge Elementary – Glen Allen, Virginia
This elementary school worked with local Girl Scouts and a local business to upcycle plastic bags into building materials. River’s Edge currently offers a fabric collection box, where residents drop off all unwanted clothing to be recycled, repurposed, or donated.
Chicago Public Schools
From a pilot program in 2015, the Chicago Public Schools Commercial Composting and Recycling Program has expanded to 14 schools. The program reduced its landfill usage and now makes on-site compost from 42% of all school waste.
Boulder Valley School District – Broomfield County, Colorado
The recycling programs at BVSD have been running since 1987, implementing zero waste opportunities and educating everyone. This includes upcycling, collecting food for compost, using special water purifiers to eliminate plastic bottle waste, and rewarding specific schools who do well with recycling. The district has become a national school recycling model.
Minnekota Middle Schools – Minnekota, Minnesota
A grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency allowed the school to switch to reusable eating materials, resulting in savings of more than $23,000 in three years and a trash reduction of over 6,000 pounds. Greenhouse gases decreased by 77% and water consumption also went down.
Oak Grove Elementary School – Sebastopol, California
The Oak Grove Elementary School recycling program reaches beyond student participation and education. This program takes part in "grasscycling" while maintaining a compost pile for food waste. They redistribute unserved food in the cafeteria to the homeless. A community outreach program allows community members to bring recyclable materials to the school. Overall garbage collection rates have reduced by over $1,000 for the school, at an 80% diversion rate.
Pasco County School District, Florida
This school district earns money through recycling by selling recycled scrap material and old equipment, rather than sending it to a landfill. A comprehensive recycling program includes standard recyclable materials and metals, batteries, foam, lightbulbs, and more. Student groups, called “Earth Patrols,” help collect recyclables and create educational initiatives for others. The district includes a Creation Station for upcycling materials to nonprofits in the area.
Working with The Crayon Initiative as a School
With all these efforts in recycling, sending old crayons to hospitals as a crayon donation seems a logical next step. In fact, schools can easily collect used crayons and send them to The Crayon Initiative after making a few minor changes. First, get everyone on board. Encourage colleagues to collect crayon nubs that might otherwise be thrown out. Next, create crayon boxes for elementary rooms where students can deposit crayon fragments. Designate a person to collect the boxes every month, then send them to The Crayon Initiative for redistribution into hospitals. It’s that easy! In a school district that strives to go green, collecting crayons should be one more initiative for the school to add to their efforts.