truckee recycle

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District takes steps to reduce waste and trash expenses

Sierra Sun |

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District is now 100 percent Styrofoam-free, as a result of a collaboration among district personnel and community organizations.

Anna Klovstad, project manager for the TTUSD Facilitied Department, and Rose Wolterbeek, director of Food Service for the district, teamed up with North Tahoe School teacher Paula Bossler to examine the district’s usage and waste patterns. Bossler, who teaches an environmental science class, worked with students to implement and extensive recycling and waste reduction program at North Tahoe. The group reached out to the community, enlisting Missy Mohler of Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, who also directs the successful Envirolution club and program at Truckee High School. Joanna Walters, owner of Sierra Cost Management, joined the effort.

Bossler’s class appointed a week last April as “Waste Reduction Week” in the school cafeteria. Students learned to separate waste into landfill, recycling, solid compost and liquid compost categories.

“Students and staff became more aware of the amount of trash produced during brunch and lunch,” said Bossler. The environmental science students measured the waste during lunch breaks. They created a bar graph displaying the amounts.

“The week-long sorting and lunch waste program made such a positive impact that the district decided to determine the impact of a similar waste reduction effort district-wide,” Bossler said.

Klovstad explains two changes were implemented as a result of the waste reduction exercise at North Tahoe. First, all Styrofoam has been eliminated in all grade levels at all school sites district-wide. Next, the group examined the disposable lunch trays that were being used in the district.

“We did a return on investment calculation, taking into consideration the cost of the disposable trays, disposal cost and labor,” explains Klovstad. “We compared that to the cost of reusable trays, the labor to clean them and the cost of the cleaning. We found that the trays would pay for themselves in less than 80 day of use!”

As a result, Wolterbeek has implemented a change at all the elementary school sites to reusable trays. “It’s simply the right thing to do. We hope to move this up the grade levels soon into middle and high schools,” said Wolterbeek, noting the group will focus on this initiative in the upcoming year.

Bossler continues to champion the conservation cause at her school and throughout the district. Future pilot projects include composting at North Tahoe schools, continuing to separate waste in the cafeteria, classrooms, and hallways, and starting an Envirolution club – similar to Truckee High’s – in NTS/NTHS.

“In the ever-present attempt to reduce expenses, especially those outside of the classroom, this is a welcome change,” notes Steve Dickinson, TTUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Financial Services. “Every little bit that helps our budget reduction effort is appreciated.”