Zero Waste Champion at Nelsonville-York

Sarah Nelson oversees several of her students as they separate recyclable material from the trash.

Sarah Nelson has been making great strides towards zero waste through her recycling efforts at Nelsonville-York Elementary School. As the school makes recycling a part of its daily activities, students will see that recycling is just part of life and they can take the habit home.

Sarah and her class at Nelsonville-York Elementary are responsible for the implementation of the school’s recycling program, which she took charge of in the fall of 2013. The multiple disabilities class had been collecting recyclables as part of their life skills curriculum for some years prior, and when Sarah took over the class she wanted to breathe new life and enthusiasm into the program.

When asked about what drives her to do recycling work Nelson replied, “It’s kind of a no-brainer. Recycling is something really easy that we can do that keeps waste out of the landfills, and in general increases awareness of the amount and type of waste we produce. It’s all about education and starting conversations.”
Through a partnership with the Ohio University’s recycling center, and Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program, Sarah received 50 containers for collecting recyclables.

Ms. Nelson and her students distributed the new recycling bins to each class, with a small presentation about what they were to be used for. This was all part of an effort to get more motivation and participation in the school’s recycling program from teachers and students.The school also has plans to have a “best decorated bin” contest to bring added awareness to the change.

After their winter break, the school plans to implement the next phase of their recycling efforts, by beginning the collection of all the plastic milk bottles used in the cafeteria. Nelson remarked, “This will be a huge project that, hopefully, we can all be very proud of! I’m very thankful to Rural Action for providing resources and education, and I’m always proud of my students for their hard work and commitment to learning about recycling and making the world a better place!”

After conducting a waste assessment with Nelson’s class of the cafeteria, Rural Action found that the school will be able to divert about 35 pounds of plastic from the landfill each week, by adding milk jugs to their recycling program.