Boulder Valley School District

BVSD and Eco-Cycle Team Up for Zero Waste

Randy Barber

Since 1987, Eco-Cycle and BVSD have partnered to bring unique Zero Waste opportunities and programming to BVSD students and staff every year. Thanks to this partnership, the Eco-Cycle/BVSD School Recycling and Environmental Education Program is widely recognized as a national model. The program is funded by BVSD, Boulder County, Broomfield County, the City of Boulder, Town of Superior and numerous foundations. 

In addition to the collection of recyclables from all schools, approximately 40,000 BVSD students and staff participate in over 1,200 assemblies, classroom presentations and field trips each year, learning about a wide variety of environmental topics. Presentations include Zero Waste Around the World, Celebrate the Holidays with an Eco-Elf, Kilowatt Kidz Energy Conservation Project, I Care About Clean Air, Household Toxins: A Safe Environment Begins at Home, Healthy Indoor Air, H2oH!: A Look at Water in Our Lives and The Rainforest and Recycling among others. Field Trip destinations include the Boulder County Recycling Center, the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, an organic farm and a landfill.

Many special projects over the years have enhanced environmental efforts in the schools:

In the annual Waste-Free Lunch Contest, several schools compete for cash prizes by trying to make the least lunchtime trash. This year Eisenhower Elementary -- they reduced lunchtime waste by an 82 percent average and returned a surplus of 51 percent of reuseable forks to the kitchen. The school actually increased durables during the competition! 

“Reusables Rule at Our School!” is a reusable water bottle project in which schools receive automatic bottle fillers for their water fountains and an education campaign that promotes conserving water. Water fillers were installed this year at Flatirons Elementary and Horizons K-8 and water education was provided at these schools in addition to Douglass Elementary and Manhattan Middle.

There is also a Locker Leftovers project at the end of the school year in which secondary students reduce waste by recycling, composting and donating to charity items from their lockers.

One of the most impactful special projects launched in 2005 -- The Green Star Schools program is currently the most extensive Zero Waste schools program in the nation. 

The project is unique because: 

1) it targets the collection of compostables (food waste and non-recyclable paper) from entire school waste streams, including lunchrooms, kitchens, classrooms, offices and restrooms (paper towels);

2) it emphasizes waste reduction in addition to composting and recycling;

3) all students and staff are integrated into the program; and 

4) participating schools are provided with extensive and on-going support, feedback, incentives and rewards. 

Large scale composting of food waste and non-recyclable paper from all areas of the school, along with school-wide recycling, cut participating schools’ trash by an average of two thirds. Thirty-seven BVSD schools are now part of the program and two more are added each year. Ultimately the goal is to have every BVSD school enrolled in the program so that students can practice Zero Waste throughout their entire school career. Several schools celebrated 5 and 10 year anniversaries of being Green Star this year and Platt Middle, Alicia Sanchez International and Arapahoe High are BVSD’s newest green star schools.

More details about these programs can be found at

“As a new Green Star School, I would say that our trash has been reduced by much more than half. Thank you, Eco-Cycle. You've awakened our minds, staff and students alike, to take necessary actions and do our part to help save this beautiful creation, our planet.”
 - Anni Berry, Head Custodian, Platt Middle 


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