McHenry High School students use class project to educate about zero waste

  • Olivia Sacchitello, left, and Anastacia Cantrell, encourage other McHenry High School students to donate unwanted and unopened food to the share table instead of throwing it away.

    Olivia Sacchitello, left, and Anastacia Cantrell, encourage other McHenry High School students to donate unwanted and unopened food to the share table instead of throwing it away. Courtesy of McHenry Community High School District 156

 
 
Updated 4/14/2020 10:04 AM

When McHenry High School buildings reopen, AP Environmental Science teachers are hoping to see students implement some of the ideas they've been looking at to reduce lunchroom waste, including having a "share table" in the cafeteria.

Having a share table in the lunchroom is one of several ideas to come out of an AP Environmental Science project earlier this year to look at ways to reduce trash generated at lunch.

 

Students at both East Campus and West Campus took one day at each school to sort and measure trash, recycling, compost and liquid waste to see what kind of garbage is generated during lunch periods.

While doing the audits, AP Environmental Science students shared information about why it is important to reduce waste, and how to do it.

They also tested the idea of having a "share table" or a place where young people can bring unwanted and unopened food or drink items to offer up for sharing. Unopened food collected on the audit days was donated to a local food pantry.

The zero-waste project is part of an effort to work to reduce what's going to landfills. Students collected weights and measurements of trash to see what kind of an impact McHenry students could have in reducing waste.

"We're going to make a zero-waste school to significantly help the environment," said Jamie Rotfeld, a West Campus junior, during the March 3 audit at West Campus. "I think it's definitely something we can do with time."

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At East Campus, the Jan. 21 audit showed that an estimated 22,000 pounds of waste is generated in the cafeteria each year. In a report to the McHenry High School District 156 board of education, the East Campus AP Environmental Science classes estimated a 98%t reduction in methane gas produced by trash could be realized with a robust recycling program.

The East Campus project was led by Tim Beagle, teacher and division head for science. At West Campus, science Teacher Kaley Freund supervised the effort.

During the audits at both schools, junior-level students walked around to lunch tables to encourage their classmates to participate.

"I think this project was also a great way to educate other students about how much doing simple things like reusing and recycling can really benefit our environment," Freund said.

To learn more about doing a waste audit at school, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's information page at www.epa.gov.

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