Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce Your School’s Waste and Help Save the Environment

Everyone knows that reducing waste is a good idea, but is your school doing all it can? You can reduce waste by reusing and recycling the basic materials that are used in school everyday. Waste reduction is important because it helps us protect our natural resources, protects our forests, and reduces the amount of garbage we put in landfills, or burn in incinerators.

This part of Green Flags will help your school improve its waste reduction and recycling programs, give you ideas on how to purchase recycled content products, and reuse materials to save costs.

Level One: Assess your school and form a Green Flag Team

The Green Flag School Program for Environmental Leadership

The Green Flag School assists communities improve the health of their school in four areas: Non-Toxic Products, Integrated Pest Management, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Indoor Air Quality.

To begin the Green Flag School program, every school must complete Level 1.

Complete the following five steps to create the foundation for a strong working group, and begin to establish lines of communication among students, staff, community members and administrators, and receive the Level 1 Award, the Green Flag!

  • Step 1:Build Your Green Flag Team

    Form a group of dedicated students, staff, faculty, parents, PTA/O chapters and/or community members. The Green Flag Team (GFT) should include a number of students and at least one adult member, but it is better if a whole team of adults is involved. If the team is adult-based, it should include at least one faculty member, one parent and one school staff member (school nurse, librarian, maintenance person, etc.).

    To form your group, make a list of people you think might be interested, and contact them or speak to them at a school event. Collect their contact information so you can invite them to an initial meeting. If your school already has an environmental group or club, they can become a Green Flag team.

    If necessary, once you have a few committed people, meet with your principal and decide what school groups you want to work with, such as an after or in -school environmental club, individual classes, grades, or the entire school.

  • Step 2: Conduct the Green Flag School Environmental Survey

    Complete the Green Flag School Environment Survey, designed to help you and your team evaluate your school’s environmental status. The information gathered will help you to choose an area to focus on. Students should engage in filling out the survey, as they will be more engaged in working to improve their environment if they see firsthand what it is that needs to be improved (and why!).

    Be sure to incorporate the facilities department in your survey research. Their knowledge of the inner-workings of the building, its history, and its needs will prove invaluable in your work.

  • Step 3: Hold a Meeting

    Invite the members of school community, including students, parents, teachers, and school staff and administrators to attend a first meeting through email, phone, flyers, and community newsletters. The meeting goal can be to form the Green Flag team, or it can be part of a larger gathering, such as a PTA meeting. Make an agenda, and give several people roles in the meeting, such as facilitator, note taker, greeter, attendance taker, and timekeeper. This meeting will allow you to spread the work about your goals, clue in the general public to your efforts, and connect you with community people who may serve as resources.

  • Step 4: Review your Progress with the Green Flags Coordinator

    E-mail, submit through our website, or fax your Level 1 Survey, complete with your Green Flag Team members names. Also submit a short write-up of your informational meeting. Include who was invited, who attended, and when and where the meeting occurred.

    CPOC Coordinator
    Childproofing our Communities Coordinator
    The Center for Health, Environment and Justice
    PO Box 6806
    Falls Church, Virginia 22040 – 6806
    Phone: (703) 237 – 2249
    Fax: (703) 237 – 8389

  • Step 5: Rewards for Level One

    At the end of level one, you will receive the Green Flag, which will have four empty boxes corresponding to the four program areas to fill in as you go through the program and your school will be listed on the Green Flag website as a Green Flag school.

Level Two: Finding and Sharing Information

To receive the Level Two award for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, your Green Flag Team must:

1. Learn about the issue:

    • Complete the RRR survey to get an in-depth look at the reduce, reuse and recycling practices at your school. Be sure to work with the maintenance and facilities staff, school administration and any environmental committees or organizations to fully understand the program.
      Research your school’s RRR policies and programs and your state’s recycling policy if there is one.
      Perform a “waste audit”, which measures the amount of trash and recycled material your school produces.

2. Share what you’ve learned:

    • Make presentations to educate and motivate the community. Good places to have a presentation are classes, assemblies, and after-school events. See Presentation Examples for more ideas.

3. Complete one Classroom Activity:

    • Use our list of Classroom Activities to choose one, or come up with your own!

4. Send all documentation to the Green Flag Coordinator:

    • Send the Level II survey and documentation or a brief description of the presentations and classroom activity to the CHEJ Green Flag School coordinator.

5. Rewards for Level two

    • Four free Green Flag T-shirts (more can be ordered for $13.50 each).
      A description of the activities of your Green Flag team will be posted on the Green Flag website


Level Three: Creating or Improving Policies

To receive the Level Three award for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, your Green Flag Team must:
(If you have an existing IPM program in your school, skip to #4)

1. Design a School Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Plan:

  • Talk with the Green Flag Program Coordinator to review your level two survey and discuss how you can design an RRR Plan.
  • Meet with school administrators and the facilities director to make a list of how to develop a RRR program.

2. Present your ideas to decision makers:

  • Make written recommendations to school decision makers about school RRR practices.
  • Prepare to make a presentation to decision-makers. Research the issue, and make notes to help you explain the need for creating or improving RRR programs at your school. Prepare materials to give to decision-makers, and a letter explaining the changes that you want to see in school policy and purchasing to improve the situation.
  • Make a presentation to decision makers, such as the principal, school board, or PTA. In order to make sure your case is well heard, bring along many people that support you and your team. At the end of the meeting, present your written recommendations, and thank them for meeting with you.
  • Perform and document one classroom activity.

3. Implement your Program:

Working with the maintenance staff and school administrators,develop and implement a program with the goals of:
Recycling all paper.
Reusing paper by collecting scrap paper and encouraging people print on both sides.
Replacing disposable products with a reusable ones.
Holding a locker clean out day, where items normally disposed of could be recycled or donated.
Purchasing recycled-content products. Talk with the purchasing department to see what your school can buy. See the Resource Packet for recycled-content products.
Composting yard waste from the school grounds
Composting food scraps from lunch
Pass the policy and begin implementation.
Submit your RRR Policy to the Green Flag Program Coordinator.
Complete one of the classroom activities.


4. Improving existing RRR practices:

If your school already has a RRR program that fulfills the criteria described above, improve your school’s program by accomplishing one of the following steps:
Recycle, reuse or reduce one additional type of material (e.g., aluminum & glass products, plastic, phone books, computer parts, printer cartridges etc.). In some school districts, implementing recycling programs might be difficult (particularly for the younger ages). See the classroom activities for suggestions and additional activities that could improve your program.
Standardize waste audits at your school so that they occur at least every two months.
Join a recycling rewards program that offers payments for the return of computer accessories such as printer cartridges and computers.
Set up a community-recycling program where you provide recycle for a business or organization outside your school.
Create a handbook or a written RRR policy for the school to use.
Propose your own idea to the RRR mentor and program coordinator.
Complete one of the classroom activities.
Submit your improvements to the RRR Program to the Green Flag Program Coordinator.

5. Rewards for Level Three:

  • The patch for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to add to your Flag.
  • A certificate of acheivement from the CHEJ Green Flag School Program.
  • A description of the activities of your Green Flag team will be posted on the Green Flag website.

Reduce,Reuse, Recycle Resources

4. Send all documentation to the Green Flag Coordinator:

    • Send the Level II survey and documentation or a brief description of the presentations and classroom activity to the CHEJ Green Flag School coordinator.