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May 3, 2011 > Sunol Glen students put trash to work

Sunol Glen students put trash to work

By Alyson Whitaker
Photos by Cammie Clark

Did you know it takes 1,000 years for a Ziploc baggie to biodegrade? Or, that it takes one 15-year old tree to produce 700 brown paper lunch bags?

These were just a few of the facts Sunol Glen students learned as they underwent a "Lunch Box Challenge" in April during Earth Week. Students were encouraged to bring a waste-free lunch every day-more challenging than it sounds!

In a day when the availability of every type of convenience foods make packing lunches effortless, it is easy to lose sight of the environmental impact of the packaging waste produced by so many individually wrapped items. A waste-free lunch means no juice boxes, no single serving items in aseptic containers (like single serve yogurt, cheese sticks, etc.) and no Ziploc style bags. Instead, lunches should be packed using 100 percent reusable containers, including the lunchbox itself.

Each morning, teachers did a quick check of students' lunches and kept a running tally of the percentage of waste-free lunches coming to school. The class with the highest percentage of participation will be celebrated with a "waste free" picnic lunch with Principal/Superintendent Molly Barnes in May.

Over the course of the week, lunchroom waste was cut in half-and students and staff were all motivated to continue the practice throughout the remainder of the school year and into next year as well.

During their P.E. periods throughout the week, each class participated in a "Trashy Relay." Teams worked together to sort piles of trash (carefully cleaned, of course!), and determine what items could be recycled, or were indeed trash. It was both fun and educational, and hopefully students took this newly learned knowledge home to share with their families.

The week culminated with the 2nd Annual Sunol Glen Trashion Show. Last year, 16 students participated in the event, creating wearable fashions out of recyclables. This year, participation nearly tripled as 46 students in preschool through 8th grade came up with clever styles showcasing items that pile up in landfills.

Third grader Georgia Ball modeled a ball gown made from plastic grocery bags. Kindergartener Lauren Bergman modeled a sundress and matching hat made entirely from Tootsie Pop wrappers. Some students refashioned outfits out of old clothes, cutting off pants to make shorts or patching holes with scraps of fabric.

Third grader Phaedra Hageman stole the show in a Katy Perryesque cupcake gown, similar to one the pop superstar wore at a performance earlier this year. But Phaedra's dress was made entirely out of items that would have otherwise ended up in the trash. Girl Scout cookie boxes were used to make the cupcake wrappers, and various cellophane scraps, colorful plastic bags, cassette tape, bubble wrap, and even a broken circuit board were used to create the cupcakes. The tiers were made out of large Styrofoam scraps pulled out of a dumpster at Lowe's, and the top of the dress was made from melted trash bags and Mylar balloons.

Students voted on all entries, and trophies-appropriately made out of recyclables-which were awarded to students in three categories: Most Creative, Most Wearable, and Trashiest in grades K-3 and 4-8.

The goal of the Trashion Show is to get students thinking about ways to reuse items. While they might not wear a shirt decorated with old CDs, or wear a dress made out of garbage sacks, making conscious decisions about what is thrown away can have a positive and lasting impact on our environment.

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