District receives $20,000 grant to fund waste reduction education

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A $24,650 grant was approved June 7 for the Berkeley Unified School District to fund and implement waste reduction education in the city’s local elementary, middle and high schools.

The grant will primarily be used to create a “green team” in Berkeley made up of teachers, students and parents who will attend workshops regarding waste audits and spreading the word about waste reduction.

“I think the grant provides a great way for the school to integrate environmental science into its curriculum,” said Alice Kaswan, Parent Teacher Association president at Rosa Parks Elementary School. “It will provide a helpful vehicle for students to see how environmental principles connect to the real world and their own lives.”

The grant was approved by the Altamont Education Advisory Board — which proposes funding allocation for waste reduction education programs throughout the Bay Area and which also gave grants to Oakland and Albany schools in 2011 — following a proposal submitted April 20 by Deborah Moore, executive director of the Green Schools Initiative.

The initiative is a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley that works to catalyze and support “green” actions in schools throughout California to reduce environmental footprints of schools.

“(The city of Berkeley) collects waste and recycling from schools and houses, and we support any changes made into improving the recycling system,” said city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

Schools in Berkeley that will take part in the project include Berkeley High School, Martin Luther King Middle School and Rosa Parks, John Muir, Washington, Oxford and Jefferson elementary schools.

According to Green Schools Initiative Project Coordinator Susan Silber, the grant will also give Berkeley teachers a small stipend for attending the workshops regarding waste reduction.

“Waste reduction education will be integrated into the students’ curriculum,” Moore said. “For example, they will be able to use their math skills to measure the amount of waste at their school. It will also help Berkeley’s goal of striving for zero waste.”

Signs labeling separate compost, recycling and garbage bins at schools will also be replaced with new, more noticeable signs funded by the grant, according to Moore. These signs are expected to stay consistent throughout all elementary, middle and high schools versus currently where the signs are designed differently for different schools.

But district spokesperson Mark Coplan said the grant does not amount to much when taking the entire budget into account.

“$20,000 is really small compared to our $100 million budget,” Coplan said. “The $20,000, however, will really help make environmental programs at a school like Rosa Parks work.”

According to Moore, with support from the grant, the initiative will also seek to a hire a UC Berkeley student for a paid internship along with other campus student volunteers to assist with waste reduction activities in the city.

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