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West Mercer earns resource conservation honor

West Mercer Elementary is among eight schools honored for resource conservation by the King County Green Schools Program.

Eight King County schools earned recognition in January for their resource conservation efforts from the county’s Green Schools Program, which has helped more than 450 schools cut waste since its inception in 2003.

“Each of these eight schools can be proud of how it involves students and staff in learning about conservation and improving conservation practices,” said Dale Alekel, King County Green Schools Program manager.

West Mercer’s success includes a recycling rate of 63 percent, education by the King County “Our Planet, R Choices” assembly, encouraging waste-free lunches and recycling empty printer cartridges.

Signs are posted near the copy machines and printers asking, “Can it be double-sided? Can you use a half sheet and cut? Can you reuse a sheet? Copy only what you need.” Each classroom has a paper bin for paper that has only been used on one side. The goal is for students and teachers to use the blank sides to reduce paper purchasing.

Before starting to reduce waste and recycling in its lunchroom, West Mercer sent approximately 680 pounds of lunchroom trash to the landfill each week. The school decreased its landfill contribution from lunch by almost 90 percent with about 70 pounds per week going to the landfill. Each week, the school pours out approximately 210 pounds of liquid, recycles about 50 pounds of bottles, cans and milk cartons, and Cedar Grove Composting collects about 350 pounds of compostable material.

Other conservation efforts include the healthy ways to school committee, leading the school’s participation in the international walk to school day event in October 2010.

“No idle” signs were posted near the drop off/pick-up area, and the healthy foods committee is working on improving the nutritional quality of school lunches as well as classroom snacks and party treats.

West Mercer is planning a learning garden, which will have areas for each grade level to plant and maintain.

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