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King County Green Schools Program recognizes 83 schools, two districts for resource conservation


The King County Green Schools Program helps schools and school districts engage students and employees in learning about and practicing resource conservation. A record number of schools have been recognized as King County Green Schools in 2018, and nearly 300 K-12 schools across King County have benefited from the program.


Schools from 34 King County cities and unincorporated areas are reducing waste, increasing recycling, conserving resources, and cutting costs with help from the King County Green Schools Program. The program provides hands-on help and the tools that schools need, such as recycling containers and signs, to make improvements.

“This spring we are recognizing 83 schools and two school districts for their conservation practices. Collectively, they have contributed to King County being one of the most environmentally responsible counties in the nation, especially when it comes to recycling," said Pat D. McLaughlin, director of the King County Solid Waste Division. 

The program has served a growing number of schools each year - from 70 schools in 2008 to 290 schools as of this year, totaling 58 percent of the K-12 schools in King County outside the City of Seattle. 

Of the 290 schools that have participated in the program, 252 schools have been recognized as Level One King County Green Schools for their waste reduction and recycling practices. The program also has recognized 147 schools for Level Two energy conservation practices, 107 schools for Level Three water conservation and pollution prevention practices, and 70 schools as Sustaining Green Schools for maintaining and building on their Level One through Three practices. 

The program helps teach students and staff to only recycle materials they know can be recycled. To reduce contamination in recycling bins and ensure markets for the collected recyclable materials, important messages such as “no liquids or food in recycling bins” are emphasized. Students in turn bring these lessons home.

“The schools and school districts we’re recognizing this spring have initiated or improved sustainable practices that encourage students and employees to reduce paper use, reduce food waste, recycle, and conserve energy and water, all of which reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Dale Alekel, Green Schools Program manager.

Student Green Teams promoted walking, biking and carpooling to school, encouraged their peers to use durable water bottles, and mentored teams in other schools. Schools created gardens, set up share tables to reduce waste of unopened food from school lunch programs, and switched from disposable or compostable trays to reusable trays.  

Northwood Elementary School in Mercer Island School District completed both Level Two and Level Three criteria this year.

In addition to Green Schools Program assistance and recognition, King County offers educational programs such as an elementary school assembly program and classroom workshops for grades 1–12 that teach students about conservation. 

Learn more by contacting Alekel at 206-477-5267 or

School district recognition

King County Green Schools Program is recognizing Issaquah School District and Tahoma School District as Sustaining Green School Districts for maintaining waste reduction and recycling (Level One), energy conservation (Level Two), and water conservation (Level Three) practices, and for completing additional conservation actions. 

One criterion is that 75 percent or more schools in the district completed Sustaining Green School criteria in the past two years. In both school districts, school recycling rates exceeded the Green Schools Program recognition criterion of a 40 percent or higher recycling rate. This is the first year school districts have met Sustaining Green School District criteria. 

Issaquah School District 
Seventy-five percent (18 schools) of the district’s 24 schools have been recognized as Sustaining Green Schools. All 24 schools participate in the King County Green Schools Program and have been recognized as Level One Green Schools for effective waste reduction and recycling practices. Twenty-two schools have been recognized as Level Two Green Schools for their energy conservation education and practices, and 20 schools as Level Three Green Schools for their water conservation education and practices.

Sustainability is one of the district’s priorities. Its annual report includes environmental education course requirements, key conservation programs, a comprehensive review of utilities use, and conservation success stories. District resource conservation manager Chris Bruno monitors school facility utility bills and supports school and district sustainability goals.   

Dawn Wallace, director of teaching and learning, leads a district Green Team of school Green Team advisors, resource conservation manager, and food service and maintenance directors who meet three times each year to discuss best practices, successes, challenges, and mentoring opportunities between schools.  

Curriculum in each grade level includes education about sustainability. Partnering with the King County Green Schools Program and City of Issaquah, the district organizes an annual sustainability summit for secondary school students. The nonprofit Sustainability Ambassadors organizes Sustainability Talks, similar to TED Talks, as an opportunity for students to hear from local experts about sustainability. 

All classrooms, offices, and cafeterias have recycling bins and signs. All district schools collect compostable materials for commercial composting. School recycling rates range from an estimated 45 percent to 90 percent. Waste reduction and recycling are included in annual custodial trainings. 

Twenty-one schools have student Green Teams leading sustainability activities such as assisting with proper waste sorting in cafeterias, and creating conservation posters, videos, and educational campaigns. Several schools have native, edible plant, or rain gardens where students learn about plant science and contribute to garden maintenance.   

In this school year, to reduce wasted food, share tables were set up in all 15 elementary schools for unopened, packaged items from the school lunch program that students placed on their trays but did not eat. Students who want extra food or drink items helped themselves to items on share tables. Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank provided weekly collection of items not taken by students. Since the launch in September 2017, the food bank has collected 7,800 pounds of milk, yogurt, fruits, and other items for distribution to community members in need. 

Thanks to coordinated efforts of lead custodians, kitchen and lunchroom employees, and student volunteers, 13 elementary schools switched from disposable to durable, reusable utensils over the past two years. The district reduced disposable utensil purchases by half, for an annual reduction of about 300,000 disposable utensils. 

Tahoma School District 
Each of the nine schools in Tahoma School District actively participates in the King County Green Schools Program. All district schools have been recognized as Level One, Level Two, and Level Three Green Schools, and all nine have been recognized as Sustaining Green Schools in the past two years. 

Each school has an active student Green Team led by a staff leader. With leadership from Dawn Wakeley, executive director of teaching and learning, staff Green Team leaders meet regularly to share Green Team successes, challenges, and information. Mary Jane Glaser, the district’s school board sustainability representative, participates in those district Green Team meetings.  

At Maple View and Summit Trail middle schools, STRETCH enrichment classes include Oceanography and Sounding Off on Puget Sound which focuses on the watershed and water pollution prevention. Two elementary schools maintain native plant and rain gardens to prevent water pollution and conserve water. 

A few schools conducted “No idling” campaigns to reduce air pollution, and two elementary schools, in partnership with Maple Valley Centennial Lions Club, encouraged neighboring businesses to stop using disposable straws. 

Recyclable and compostable materials are collected in all district facilities, and most schools participate in Waste Free Wednesdays to encourage reduction of food waste and disposable packaging in lunches. All elementary schools use durable trays and utensils at lunchtime, all secondary schools use compostable trays and utensils, and all schools use compostable trays and utensils at breakfast.

Student Green Teams monitor cafeteria waste and recycling stations to help ensure that students place only accepted and empty recyclable materials in recycling bins. This year several teams created videos to teach their school communities how to recycle and reduce waste. School recycling rates range from an estimated 45 percent to 72 percent.

Principals receive monthly updates on Green Team activities, custodians learn about conservation practices in twice annual trainings, and the district tracks energy and water data for use in classrooms and by Green Teams. Since several schools moved to new or renovated facilities prior to the 2017-18 school year, new energy and water baselines were established to capture performance of all district facilities.

Efforts are supported by McKinstry, a company that provides energy and facility services, and its powerED program focused on increasing building efficiency through operational support and occupant engagement. In early 2018, the district updated its guidelines on waste reduction, energy and water conservation. For example, one guideline restricts use of supplemental or personal space heaters, refrigerators and other appliances in classrooms and offices, and another requires shutting down heating and cooling equipment whenever school facilities are closed.

To conserve energy and water, Tahoma Senior High School’s new building includes motion sensors on all lights and sinks, and classroom lights dim in relation to the level of natural daylight. The school also has water bottle filling stations that encourage use of durable water bottles. 

School recognition

Sustaining Green Schools 2017-18

59 schools were recognized as Sustaining Green Schools for maintaining Level One, Two, and Three practices, and completing an additional conservation action or educational strategy.  

Auburn School District
Ilalko Elementary School
Lakeland Hills Elementary School
Lea Hill Elementary School
Olympic Middle School

Enumclaw School District
Enumclaw Middle School
Westwood Elementary School

Federal Way Public Schools
Camelot Elementary School
Green Gables Elementary School
Olympic View Elementary School
Sequoyah Middle School

Highline School District
North Hill Elementary School

Issaquah School District
Apollo Elementary School 
Beaver Lake Middle School 
Briarwood Elementary School
Cascade Ridge Elementary School
Challenger Elementary School
Clark Elementary School
Creekside Elementary School
Discovery Elementary School
Endeavour Elementary School
Grand Ridge Elementary School
Issaquah High School
Issaquah Middle School
Maywood Middle School
Newcastle Elementary School
Pine Lake Middle School
Sunny Hills Elementary School
Sunset Elementary School

Kent School District
Crestwood Elementary School
Lake Youngs Elementary School

Lake Washington School District
Carl Sandburg Elementary/Discovery Community School

Mercer Island School District 
Island Park Elementary School
Islander Middle School
Lakeridge Elementary School
Mercer Island High School
West Mercer Elementary School

Northshore School District

Secondary Academy for Success
Skyview Middle School

Renton School District
Tiffany Park Elementary School

Riverview School District
Carnation Elementary School

Snoqualmie Valley School District
North Bend Elementary School
Snoqualmie Elementary School
Two Rivers School

Tahoma School District
Cedar River Elementary School
Glacier Park Elementary School
Lake Wilderness Elementary School
Maple View Middle School
Rock Creek Elementary School
Shadow Lake Elementary School
Summit Trail Middle School
Tahoma Elementary School
Tahoma Senior High School

Private schools 
Chestnut Hill Academy (Bellevue)
King’s Elementary School (Shoreline)
King’s High School (Shoreline)
St. Luke School (Shoreline)
The Evergreen School (Shoreline)
The Jewish Day School (Bellevue)
The Overlake School (Redmond)

Level Three (water conservation and pollution prevention)

The following five schools maintained Level One and Two practices, and engaged students and employees in water conservation and pollution prevention actions. 

Issaquah School District
Pacific Cascade Middle School
Skyline High School

Kent School District
Kent Elementary School

Mercer Island School District
Northwood Elementary School

Northshore School District
Leota Middle School

Level Two(energy conservation)

The following 10 schools maintained Level One waste reduction and recycling practices, and learned about and engaged in energy conservation actions. 

Auburn School District
Alpac Elementary School
Dick Scobee Elementary School

Highline School District
Waskowitz Outdoor School

Lake Washington School District
Eastlake High School
Redmond High School
Tesla STEM High School

Mercer Island School District
Northwood Elementary School

Shoreline School District
Ridgecrest Elementary School

Vashon Island School District
Chautauqua Elementary School

Private school
Eastside Catholic School (Sammamish)

Level One (waste reduction and recycling) 

The following 10 schools were recognized as King County Level One Green Schools for initiating or improving waste reduction and recycling practices. 

Federal Way Public Schools
Kilo Middle School

Highline School District
Hilltop Elementary School

Kent School District
Park Orchard Elementary School

Lake Washington School District 
Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School
Lake Washington High School
Rachel Carson Elementary School

Northshore School District 
Canyon Park Middle School
North Creek High School

Snoqualmie Valley School District 
Mount Si High School

Vashon Island School District
McMurray Middle School

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