Video: Recycle Rally Leaders Share How They Got Their School Involved
Real ideas from real schools!
Want to know how to increase involvement in a school recycling program? In this video, Recycle Rally members share the ideas that worked for their schools.
How did you approach getting buy-in from your administrators?
Patty Meehan: First, I went to my principal and asked if he was OK if I did this. I assured him I would take care of everything, so he was fine with that.
Chris Vail: Initially, contact either the superintendent or the principal and tell them about the benefits of the Recycle Rally program and how easy it is. Because one of the things about Recycle Rally is that there is no negative to it. Everything about it is positive. The more you do, the more benefits you get.
Most important step in getting staff involved?
Marni Zito: The way we got the head custodian involved is we were able to show him how recycling would not only help the students but help his staff as well to keep our school clean.
Most important step to get teachers involved in the school recycling program?
Patty Meehan: There are so many good suggestions on the website. So I would continually share that stuff with the teachers. Email it out as suggestions that maybe they would want to work into a lesson they were doing.
Marni Zito: I used a lot of materials from the website. We did every contest we could. We did the recycling steps, and I had them join in with me so they could see all the benefits that recycling would bring.
Susan Correa: Trying to get the teachers to help each other also supports us with our recycling. As they started to see the benefits from it, they are really becoming more supportive. They come out there and ask, “How can we help?”
Patty Meehan: The little lunch totes that we could order through the program, that was a huge incentive. Those I got for the teachers, to get them to inspire the kids. Whatever classrooms brought in the most, the teacher won the lunch totes, and they liked that. Adults also worked really hard for t-shirts.
Did you overcome any initial pushback to the school recycling program?
Marni Zito: When we first started, the pushback that I received was “the unknown.” My administration has always been supportive, but they were not sure of what we were going to take on. I made sure I showed them the website. I showed them the different schools that have recycled and all the benefits.
What was the most important step to broaden involvement amongst your students?
Rick Wilson: The first step I took to broaden the involvement in school was I had contests. I used the gift cards from Recycle Rally as prizes. We put it on the announcements, we put it on our newsletters. So people slowly started bringing their recycling in, and they realized, hey, recycling is kind of cool. And I can win prizes at the same time!
Susan Paszkowski: I have certain days where the kids will go pick up the bottles and cans from the homerooms. They get a card with a teacher name, they get the green bin and bring it to my room, my science lab, and they sort plastics (#1 and #2) and aluminum.
Susan Correa: To get the students involved, and the parents that happen to be in the building during the morning announcements, we announce how many pounds of recycling we collected that day. We also announce which grade level won, so they know that they have their extra recess for the day.
Marni Zito: We use fourth grade to help us. They’re so passionate because they’re “in charge” of the school as fourth graders, and we wanted them to feel empowered.
Chris Vail: Every school, there is not one child that cannot participate in this.
What’s your advice for teachers trying to get their whole school involved?
Chris Vail: Do the checklist. Everything you need to do to recycle in your school is available online.
Rick Wilson: Be creative. Keep coming up with ideas that keep people interested, and show people what you’re doing is a positive and good thing.
Susan Paszkowski: Send some little reminder, because information gets lost or you start forgetting about it. So a lot of reminders, keeping the interest, is really a big help when you’re starting a program.
What types of roles have students taken on at your school?
Marni Vito: We created a Recycle Rally Committee. Once the fourth grade students collected the recyclables, the committee would go down to the custodian’s hallway. We would sort it and help clean whatever needed to be cleaned, so it wasn’t left just on the custodians. They have their own job to do. Having the Recycle Rally really made them have pride in themselves and their school. That is something you can’t get by doing a worksheet.
How did you engage parents in the school recycling program?
Susan Paszkowski: Having good parent community support is key. I like to hand things out at the beginning of the school year to say we collect bottles and cans. Send information often home from the school.
Susan Correa: To get parents involved, we started with our PTA president. By getting their support, they were able to generate more support from the PTA.
Rick Wilson: I engaged parents with recycling through the contests. Then because I recycle in my classroom, my students will go home, and they will force their parents to recycle!
How has the program evolved?
Chris Vail: When we have football games, there are kids on the loudspeaker who will talk about, “Don’t forget there’s recycling bins by the concession stands!” So it has become almost expected behavior, not just something that’s ancillary.
Isabel Anaya: Once we started to educate the parents, educate the students, and educate the staff of what we were doing and the importance behind it, it went from being what they call “trashy” to “oh, can we bring more?” They love to see all the bags up in the front because they see the importance behind it. It has become part of our culture at our school.
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