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Wilma Hansen Middle School - 2014

Team Name: Wilma Hansen's DC Club

Campaign Goal:

My group first conducted a survey through their science classes asking students about their habits and opinions regarding their behaviours surrounding trash, recycling, and composting. After the survey results were collected and graphed, my group decided it would be worthwhile to do a garbage sort of what students at the school actually threw away. What they found surprised them. We decided to work on helping students in the school produce less waste as they ate their lunch because we noticed that there seemed to be a lot of excess waste thrown out throughout the week. My group learned that while the majority of students at Wilma Hansen were aware of how recycling works and what can and can’t be recycled, they didn’t always follow through with their actions to ensure less trash was produced. They also discovered that some students don’t believe that they’re wasting food if they throw out what they brought to school with them. My group also did a garbage sort of actual trash produced during a lunch on a Tuesday. Here’s a list of what they discovered: That there was a lot of plastic and cardboard that doesn’t belong there 3 complete and uneaten/unbitten wheat products 5 half-eaten products (yogurt, cinnamon buns, pizza, ham sandwiches, pudding) metal knives and pens were found everything was covered in something disgusting (yummm!) people don’t know exactly what should be in recycling and what should be in garbage (that’s something for all of us to learn) The goal we set was to have students reduce the amount of waste they produce during lunch throughout the week. My group wanted to see students understand that throwing out what they brought to school is, in fact, wasteful and that behavior can change to reflect a more thoughtful attitude about the impact of producing such waste.

What did we do?

  • My group decided that they wanted to teach each of the science classes at Wilma Hansen about what they learned as they investigated the problem they identified.
  • They started by asking students about the ‘What If…?” scenario: What if we continue our current behaviours about producing trash? What if we don’t change our attitudes? They showed a short clip from the beginning of Wall-E to illustrate the extreme nature of just what could happen. They then asked students what they believed is the current reality of trash in our world. Some student responses were:
  • “If there [is] too much trash then the planet cannot sustain life.”
  • “People are too lazy to recycle their recyclables.”
  • “Because people litter and they don’t recycle. Too much packaging.”
  • “If we keep this up the world won’t be able to let us live here.”
  • Students showed awareness that behavior should change after going through this short exercise. My group then showed the video about their own garbage sort. They asked students what they believed to be the biggest category of trash produced by students at Wilma Hansen, which were plastics.
  • After that, my group showed the Fiesta Farms video with the challenge to not produce waste for a year, followed by the video showcasing how to be less wasteful at home.
  • To finish, my group introduced the concept of Trashless Tuesdays, where students were asked to sign up to participate in Trashless Tuesdays for a month. Every Tuesday, students would bring a lunch that produced no trash, and they would come and show my group their lunches and we would confirm that they would produce no trash from what they brought. Every time they did, they earned an entry into a draw to win prizes. The funds for the prizes came from the recycling program we have at the school.

The Best Part

The highlights of this experience were the garbage sort and planning the lesson for the science classes. My group loved doing that because it gave them a chance to stretch their creative muscles.


The grade 7 science classes were very keen to participate and most of them signed up at the end of my group’s lesson. The grade 8 and 9 students had about one half to a third of each of the classes sign up initially. There was great initial enthusiasm for the initiative, but by week four, students’ enthusiasm waned. The biggest challenge was motivating the student population to bring trashless lunches because the school is directly across from a 7-Eleven and a pizza take out eatery. Many students choose to purchase their lunches, which means the trash they produce is not directly in their control. We were somewhat successful at the beginning of our campaign. The biggest thing to remember is that students will forget that this is a yearlong endeavor, and to not get discouraged when students lose enthusiasm. It also helps if this can be done as part of a complementary course.

Comments about the Campaign

The caretaker appreciated the work we did in attempting to lower the amount of trash. He said he noticed on Tuesdays that there was less trash. The students who participated in the campaign by bringing a trashless lunch appreciated the effort put into creating less trash. The winner of the grand prize said that they knew bringing a trashless lunch would pay off but that they were pleasantly surprised with the immediate payoff (she was referring to winning)

Did We Reach our Goal?

Our caretaker noticed that in the first couple of weeks of the campaign there was less trash put into the garbage bins in the foyer and outside of the lunchroom. He didn’t quantify it but he was able to make qualitative observations about the general.

What we are planning to work on next

We will continue to push for students to bring their own lunches and to pack what they want to eat so they actually eat what they bring.

Additional Info

Should another teacher wish to take this on next year, I will share this Green Gallery report, the excel spreadsheet, our powerpoint, and my own experiences with that teacher.