Program putting the green in school lunches


Sage Canyon School is getting greener. This month the school started their Eco Kids program, getting students involved in the recycling process every school day.

The Del Mar Union School District started their green campaign last year with Del Mar Hills Academy taking the lead, but Sage Canyon didn’t have anyone to run their school’s program. Parent Teresa Miller, president of the school’s Kids Korps chapter, stepped up this year to run the green initiative with help from fellow parent Rebecca Twoney.

The pair spent hours scouring Loews to build the Coyote Recycling Center (they settled on a painter’s scaffolding with plastic bins) and have been at the school every lunch period for the past three weeks helping jumpstart the program.

The next step is a school-wide recycling day, which will encourage families to bring all of their plastic bottles and cans to campus on a designated day. “Green Thursdays” will start at Sage on Dec. 1.

Team green

Each week, teachers name two fifth and sixth grade students to be part of the Eco Kids team. The students’ job is to go around during recess, snack and lunch times and collect recyclables.

They gather up the hot lunch cardboard trays, paper bags, plastic bottles and yogurt cups. With plastic gloves on, they willingly root through garbage cans for forgotten recyclables.

Two students also take a mobile recycling center over to the kindergarteners that have a separate lunch area.

The week’s Eco Kids each get their own official lanyard to wear around their neck.

“It makes them feel a little bit empowered,” said Miller. “It’s cool.”

Even students who aren’t on the team that week want to be involved. During lunch, children come up to ask how they can help. Miller and Twoney give students trash grabbers to help pick up leftover trash.

As recycling has picked up, there’s not as much trash at lunch, Miller said.

Since the program has been in place, plant manager John Graciano reported that their trash load has decreased from using 15 garbage cans at lunch to just five. The goal is to get garbage cans down to two, Miller said.

Spreading knowledge

Miller knows that the students won’t go far without education. To help keep the children informed, teachers offer a school-wide “Green Tip of the Month.” The teacher explains the tip to the class and a discussion follows.

‘It’s such a worthwhile thing to do,” said teacher Janese Swanson “Not only does it make the kids aware but us as adults too.”

This month’s tip was reducing the amount of trash they bring to school.

Teachers asked students to consider moving away from brown bags and plastic sandwich bags and instead consider washable or re-useable bags, lunch boxes and water bottles.

Students are also designing and creating their own posters to put up on campus, touting how great it can be to be green.

“This generation is going to be very caring about our world,” Swanson said.