Have you ever lingered in the Wilson halls once the school day is over and noticed the small cohort of students taking out the recycling? These students, who meticulously empty the recycling bins room by room, are part of science teacher Dani Moore’s Wilson recycling initiative. Before Moore took over the program three years ago, it was an extracurricular activity.
Originally, Moore thought her program would run the same way as it previously had, with enthusiastic students volunteering to collect recycling because it was the right thing to do. However, she said she overestimated individual students’ passion and energy to keep the program running.
After one year leading the extracurricular with little student participation, Moore made recycling a participation grade for her AP Environmental Science students. “Here’s a bunch of students who have at least a passing interest or awareness of the environment,” Moore said, explaining her decision to create this assignment.
Although these students are given a 100 percent grade for participation for spending just 25 minutes an advisory carrying recycling to the compactor, Moore sees it as a chance to put learning into action.
Moore thinks that some students see the assignment as “just one more freaking thing they have to do,” while others “get that glowing feeling that you can get when you’ve done something that you know is valuable to the community,” she said.
“All we have to do is go to the teacher lounges and take the big blue recycling, and take it downstairs, and sort it,” senior Marina Pariser said. “It’s awesome that Dr. Moore is doing it, that she’s taking the initiative to do it.”
Since this program began, Wilson has had a more consistent “workforce” dedicated to increasing the school’s environmental awareness. “I think Dr. Moore honestly cares about Wilson’s carbon footprint,” Pariser said.
Although the program has proven successful, there are still some struggles plaguing the project. A large part of the recycling process is ensuring the bins are kept clean and uncontaminated. “There are things like paper towels [that] can’t be recycled… and people don’t know that. And so even people with the best of intentions end up contaminating the bin,” Moore explained. In response to this, Moore encourages teachers to top their recycling bins with cardboard tops to cut down on the amount of trash going into the recycling.
Moore also recognizes that as highly as many students value the project, there are busy times when no one can sign up. “There are weeks… like midterms week [which] is a really hard week to get students to sign up for,” Moore said. “That lack of consistency… in my program is an issue as well.”
“On a school-wide and even DGS (Department of General Services)-wide problem, a lot of times our trash compactor gets full and our recycling compactor is treated like a trash compactor,” Moore said. In this case, the students are doing their job perfectly but “at the end of the day, people end up treating it like trash.”
The recycling program is contributing to Wilson lowering its carbon footprint, but Moore believes this should not only be the responsibility of these few AP Environmental Science students.
“At the end of the day, Wilson should recycle. That seems like the most basic first step in doing anything with the environment.”