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Sarah Ettman-Sterner: Dos Pueblos Students Waste Away

A weeklong 'white trash bag experience' at the high school produces solutions

A weeklong, 24/7 high school experiment featured on Green Hawk is now complete.

Sarah Ettman-Sterner
Sarah Ettman-Sterner (Nick Sterner photo)

While the participants at Dos Pueblos High School are breathing a collective sigh of relief, the result of collecting one’s own garbage still stinks in more ways than one.

The data produced through the municipal solid waste experiment, aka the “white trash bag experience,’’ reveals that even though these students produce less than the national average of nearly 5 pounds per day, there is room for improvement. Our consumer society is good at filling landfills with plastic packaging and nonbiodegradables — so good, in fact, that time and space will eventually run out. What if we all worked toward the goal of no waste at all?

So what does waste from 106 people look like? Watch the following video produced by Blue Ocean Productions for Green Hawk to find out.

Video provided by Blue Ocean Productions, www.blueoceanproductions.com

“We produced 230 pounds between me and my three classes (106 people),” Dos Pueblos environmental studies teacher Ryan Gleason said. “This comes out to 2.2 pounds per person. The yearly total is 11,960 pounds (almost 6 tons) for our three classes.”

The average person produces 4.4 pounds of municipal solid waste per day, according to the Clean Air Council.

“We were far under that value,” Gleason said. “Part of this is that they are students, were allowed to compost, don’t have children with diapers and don’t consume beverages in glass bottles.”

What are the take-home lessons the students can share with the community? Here are just a few that are easy to do and can make a difference:

» Stop junk mail, and make sure to recycle and compost everyday.

» Be more conscious of the waste thrown away, and do some things to help reduce the waste, such as using a cloth grocery bag, or glass bottles instead of plastic.

» Stop buying plastic bottled water and/or use reusable bottles.

» Reuse lunch bags and use less foil when wrapping a sandwich.

» Use cloth napkins when eating at home.

» Take smaller food portions, and take only what you can eat.

» Eat less fast food and drink less soda. If you do eat out, try not to get it “to go” because you’ll get far less trash.

» Take fresh fruits and vegetables to school as snacks. Put them in reusable plastic containers instead of plastic bags, or take them whole, such as an apple or banana.

Even Gleason got into the act and discovered something new in the process.

“I learned how much of my trash weight is because of cans for beans and other vegetables,” he said. “I am going to start purchasing in bulk.”

Please share your tips for putting the lid on trash. I look forward to your comments.

Green Hawk interactive producer Sarah Ettman-Sterner focuses on current environmental trends and marine-related topics. A member of the Society for Environmental Journalists, she provided the “voice” for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society for more than a decade. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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