The Government of the District of Columbia has established an ambitious goal of diverting at least 80 percent of materials away from landfills and waste-to-energy facilities by 2032. To reach this goal, the District has established several laws related to waste, such as the Healthy Schools Act of 2010 and the Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014. As part of the Healthy Schools Act, the Department of General Services (DGS) provides a zero-waste program for DC Public Schools and provides technical assistance to public charter schools. Schools play a critical role in fostering the knowledge and habits that students can use at school and for generations to come, including their understanding of how items they purchase, and use generate waste and how they handle the waste they produce.
Lesson Plans: Consider utilizing one or more of the following curricula resources to teach about the 4Rs (reduce, reuse, refuse, and recycle) and aiming for zero-waste.
- DGS has lessons for different grade levels for the following topics: composting, recycling, waste reduction, and paper recycling.
- Food Waste Warrior toolkit
- Plastic Pollution Curriculum and Activity Guide
- Waste Deep: Overview, MS curriculum, HS curriculum (can be adapted for DC)
- Resources for the Creative Curriculum Recycling Unit (Grades pre-K)
- Decomposition and Decomposers (Grade 2-5)
- Decomposition and Decomposers: Finding and Observing Decomposers activity on page 2 (Grades pre-K-2), use with Decomposition Song by Banana Slug String Band
- Vermicomposting lessons (Grades K-2 and 3-5)
- DC Waste Sorting Game
Middle and High School
- An Ocean of Plastics (Grades 6-8)
- Plastic Bottles in the Watershed (High School)
- Story of Stuff of Bottled Water
Student Audits and Actions: Consider the following student activities to engage students with the 4Rs and zero-waste.
- DC Reduce First! Challenges: Lunch Edition, Paper Edition, Plastic Edition
- Waste Datasheet
- Cafeteria Waste Audit: How to
- Eco-Schools Consumption and Waste Audit
- Project Learning Tree Waste and Recycling Investigation (register for free download for Early Childhood and All Grades)
- US EPA Food Waste Audit
Celebratory Events: Consider bringing awareness to your school’s waste reduction initiatives by celebrating these national/international awareness days at your school.
- Earth Day: April 22
- Fashion Revolution Week (best for high school): April
- America Recycles Day: Nov. 15
- Waste and Recycling Workers Week: week of June 17
- DC Food Recovery Week: usually October
- Buy Nothing Day: day after Thanksgiving
Teacher Resources: Consider taking advantage of the following resources to improve waste reduction at your school.
- DC Healthy Schools Act, subsection for Environmental Programs Office includes requirements around recycling and waste
- DC Share Table Guidelines
- Eco-Schools Consumption and Waste pathway resources
- Food Waste Resource
- Our Last Straw
- The Science of Compost
- Vermicomposting information for schools and a starter’s guide for teachers
Field Trips: Consider one or more of the following field trips to further students’ experiences.
- DGS’ Field Trip List includes contact information for recycling and composting facilities, waste transfer stations, and more
- Virtual trip to the Organics Compost Facility in Prince George’s County
For More Information
- School custodial foreman/team: To learn more about the school’s recycling program and waste services
- Department of General Services
Capital LEAF Links:
- Capital LEAF Main page
- Energy Resources
- Health and Nutrition Resources
- Physical Environment Resources
- Schoolyard Habitat Resources
- Transportation Resources