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Martin Sortun school staff, students go green

Martin Sortun Elementary has created a “Green team” to help bring down the garbage to help promote a green school.  Fourth graders Sarah Stregne, and Naiomi Lajoye, help their classmates Sukharaj Chahal, Delaney Mathews, and Molly Phin with their lunch garbage, sorting the recyclable and compost able from the garbage.  - Charles Cortes/ Reporter
Martin Sortun Elementary has created a “Green team” to help bring down the garbage to help promote a green school. Fourth graders Sarah Stregne, and Naiomi Lajoye, help their classmates Sukharaj Chahal, Delaney Mathews, and Molly Phin with their lunch garbage, sorting the recyclable and compost able from the garbage.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/ Reporter

School tries new program

At the kick-off assembly for the new green schools program at Martin Sortun Elementary, the kids were excited to show off what they had learned.

As the trained pairs of students set to monitor the new three can system of garbage, recyclables and compost took their places behind their respective garbage collection points in the school’s multi-purpose room, education assistant Scott Meyer tested the rest of the student body about what they learned in preparation for Tuesday’s launch event.

“And what goes in compost?” Meyer asked.

“Fooooooooood!” the kids responded.

With that, tables were dismissed and streams of students headed to the garbage pails, separating their recyclable milk cartons, orange-juice containers and bottles from their food waste and sorting everything into the right cans.

“It helps the community to be a better world,” said Shaya McQueen, 9, a fourth-grader at Sortun about why she was excited to recycle.

Fellow fourth-grader Sarah Cortines, 9, agreed, adding that it is important to help nature and the animals, like polar bears who are drowning.

“It can actually help you too,” she said, adding that recycling saves money.

“There’s a lot of garbage so we can recycle stuff so we can use it again,” said Naomi LaJoye, 9, one of the fourth-graders monitoring the three-bucket system.

Keeping the environment green while saving some green is exactly what the Green School program is about, and Martin Sortun is the latest to get on board.

Principal Greg Kroll said the new program is part of the school’s attempt to become a King County Green School, a program designed to get schools and school districts to practice resource conservation and teach the kids about environmental stewardship.

“You just look at what’s thrown away,” Kroll said. “We don’t live in a world of unending resources.”

The goal is to cut the school’s garbage in half by separating out the recyclables and the food waste, which is taken to be composted.

“The whole purpose is to educate the students why it is important to recycle,” Meyer said, adding that by teaching the kids what to do, the school hopes the lessons will carry over at home. “Right now it’s developing the habit, developing the routine.”

While the upper grades all eat in the multi-purpose room, first- and second-graders eat in their classrooms, but they too are joining the recycling efforts, separating their waste into three cans of their own.

“We’re doing it to help the world,” said Allison Elkins, 7.

Kroll said removing recyclables and compostable materials from the garbage has cut in half the number of trips made to the school by garbage haulers. Kroll said the number of trips by those who haul recyclable materials has increased, but two recycling trips still costs less than one dumpster.

“Before we started this program, everything was just thrown away,” Kroll said. “That’s taxpayer dollars we can make better use of.”

“I think this is the beginning of what the whole district will move toward,” he added.

In fact, he is right, as the entire district has signed up as part of the King County Green Schools program. Advance teams from the county helped prep the staff and students at Sortun two weeks ago.

Several other schools are already involved, including Crestwood Elementary, which does its own composting on school grounds, something the staff at Sortun would like to do in the future.

Even with their garbage bills dropping and their green credentials rising, Kroll said his school is just getting started and he hopes to do even more in the future.

“We’re just getting started,” he said.

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