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Oceanside schools recognized for reducing the most waste in one semester

OCEANSIDE — The Zero Waste Schools that achieved reducing the most waste in one semester were recognized at the Oceanside Unified School District board meeting on Tuesday.

Teachers and students from Del Rio Elementary, South Oceanside Elementary and Laurel Elementary accepted prize money from Waste Management for their achievements.

Jenna Roripaugh, city environmental specialist, works regularly with schools. She said staff and students were very excited about the recognition and prize money.

“They’re wonderful programs with a lot of heart,” Roripaugh said.

Del Rio Elementary was awarded $500 for making zero waste part of school culture, classrooms and events.

The school holds a weekly recycling day for families to drop off recyclables.

Staff and students also tend a school garden and grow food that is sold to the school cafeteria to use in lunches. The garden includes composting.

South Oceanside Elementary received $300 for its strong Zero Waste Leadership program that involves kindergarten through fifth grade students.

“They incorporate it all the way down to kindergarten, it’s great to see what they’re doing with it (the Zero Waste program),” Roripaugh said.

Zero Waste team members serve as peer educators on reduction and recycling practices. They also share best practices with the community as opportunities arise, including participating in the annual city Earth Day Festival.

Laurel Elementary was awarded $200 for the zero waste leadership of its principal, who personally encourages efforts. Roripaugh said it makes a big impact when administrators make zero waste a priority.

“Freddie Chavarria, the principal, he’s been a main champion for zero waste,” Roripaugh said.

The city educates schools on zero waste through tangible lessons.

When schools begin the Zero Waste program they have a trash audit done that measures landfill trash and recyclables. Audit results are shared with staff and students.

Then sites are educated on how to reduce landfill waste, and recycling containers are added.

Within one semester all schools have increased recycling from 10 to 70 percent. Efforts include sorting recyclables and organic waste. Schools also change purchasing practices and buy more recyclable products.

Roripaugh said Zero Waste Schools bring about changes on campuses and in the community. Kids learn the impacts of trash, and how to be environmental stewards.

“Once you incorporate zero waste behaviors, you can’t undo behaviors,” Roripaugh said. “These kids are changing homes, they never think of not recycling.”

Zero waste practices also reduce schools’ trash bills. The district has saved $80,000 since efforts began in 2014.

Twelve of the 23 district schools are Zero Waste Schools, and pledge to divert 75 to 90 percent of school waste from landfills. The remaining schools are scheduled to receive education and coaching.

The city aims to have all Zero Waste Schools by 2020.