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Suffolk School Takes Recycling Beyond The Bin

Posted on June 30, 2017 by | Comments Off

The Recycling Club at John Yeates Middle School in Suffolk is impressive to say the least. The club formed in the fall of 2016 when the school received an askHRgreen.org environmental education mini grant to start a recycling program. Made up of 12 students, with guidance from teachers, Ms. Sabrina Hayes and Ms. Lauren Rubash, they have been busy rolling out and managing the school’s recycling program. They have also given a recycling presentation to a manager at a local fast food chain that isn’t currently recycling, they’ve raised funds for their program, and now they are managing and maintaining a school garden complete with compost area and a rain barrel. Assistant Principal Dr. Wendy Van Housen has been instrumental in all of these activities, including applying for the mini grant. For her leadership and efforts, Dr. Van Housen won the askHRgreen Environmental Action Award back in February. As the Regional Recycling and Beautification Committee representative for Suffolk, I stopped by the school to see the newly-installed garden and catch up with Dr. Van Housen as the students are out on summer break.

JohnYeatesBefore&AfterDr. Van Housen and the school principal, Dr. Shawn Green, led me to their beautiful new courtyard garden. It was very impressive, and when Dr. Van Housen showed me how it looked before the makeover, I was curious to know how they did such a wonderful job in the middle of a busy school semester. 

As part of the school’s Earth Day (week) celebrations, Dr. Van Housen reached out to two businesses known for their community involvement, Lowes and Smuckers. She asked them for help with rejuvenating their school courtyard which she referred to as, “an eyesore.” The manager of Lowes, Steve Poole, agreed to help with the project by supplying tools and lending 12 employees. In addition, they supplied 400 bags of soil, 300 bags of mulch, and 200 bags of marble rock. More than 30 planks of wood were cut to build benches and lay the foundation for a rock path. Smuckers manager, Keith Hightower, also agreed to help and organized 9 employees to join the effort and contributed Chick-fil-A lunches for everyone involved. It took only two days to turn the courtyard around, installing three raised beds, a variety of benches, and a composting area. A remarkable team effort! 

JohnBYeates4Now that it’s built, The Recycling Club is managing and maintaining it. They are already harvesting cucumbers with peppers, carrots, and tomatoes on the way. Over the course of the summer, some of the teachers and supporting staff will help with maintenance until the students return. Dr. Van Housen told me how the cooking teacher had already visited the garden to teach the students about fresh food and in the new school year, there will be plenty of opportunities for other teachers to use the garden as a learning experience. Next year, they are planning to begin composting, install their rain barrel, and paint the benches with their school colors.

JohnYeatesAfterIt is amazing to think that a year ago the school did not have a recycling program or a recycling club and now they are looking to harvest rain water and begin composting. Before I left, I asked Dr. Van Housen if everybody at the school was recycling to which she replied, “Many students are recycling but not everybody just yet; however, everybody is aware of recycling. The school is making progress and we are excited to encourage our students to think about their environmental impact.”

 Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.

Posted in: For educators, Gardening, Going Green, Lawn and landscape, Reduce reuse and recycle, Uncategorized, Using water wisely

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Meat Water: Not A Thing

Posted on June 28, 2017 by | Comments Off

There comes a time in every educator’s life when you question if you are really making a difference. Am I reaching people? Am I molding the next generation of world changers? Will they remember any of this? 

I’ve been a Community Educator with HRSD for about 5 years and I love what I do. I get to teach people how HRSD cleans dirty water and why clean water is important, create interactive activities to bring to schools, and blog about my experiences right here on “Let’s Talk Green.” At this point, most of my friends and family know what not to flush because it’s one of my favorite soap boxes to stand on. Encouraging civic engagement is my jam. I even convinced my brother to stop hurling his used turkey fryer oil over the fence. Community Educator win.

But then, it happened. One ordinary night my husband and I were going through the post-dinner motions of cleaning up and getting the kids clean and in bed with enough efficiency to allow for a TV show and an adult beverage before turning into pumpkins. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him leaning over the kitchen sink with the pan he had cooked the beef in that night. No, I thought. He can’t be. He wouldn’t…

Fats Oils Grease Disposal

This is not “meat water.” It is FOG.

Me:  What are you doing?

Husband:  Huh?  Just…

Me:  Are you pouring that grease into our sink?! 

Husband:  What? No, it’s not grease, it’s meat water.

Me:  MEAT WATER?! Meat water is not a thing. There is no such thing as meat water. 

Husband:  Yes, this is meat water. It’s not grease. Bacon makes grease. This is more like water.

Me:  HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?! You can’t pour that down the drain. Do you ever listen to anything I say? I spend a lot of time telling people to keep FOG out of their drains, and now you, my own husband, my sink. That clogs pipes, causes sewage spills…Ahhhhhhhh!  *Throws hands in air*

Husband:  It’s MEAT WATER! Meat water doesn’t clog pipes.

Me:  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MEAT WATER! 

I could continue but we just started to talk in circles at this point. 

Community Educator FAIL. Apparently, my messages are sometimes lost on the ones closest to me. And this is the same sink I have blogged about in the past, a sink that my husband installed WITHOUT a garbage disposal because garbage disposals send too much gunk into the pipes and contribute to clogs and sewage spills. He knows that part. He scrapes his leftovers into the trashcan and compost bin like a champ.   

I guess I need one of these above my sink.

I guess I need one of these above my sink.

So here goes.  For my husband and everyone else I have failed to reach. Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) DO NOT GO DOWN THE DRAIN. That includes any leftover residue from cooking meat. Even if it looks “watery.” It’s not meat water. Meat water does not exist. Google it. 

It turns out, I’m not alone. My coworker, Molly, is also a Community Educator, guest blogger, and environmental steward with a green thumb (check out her composting tips). She realized recently that her husband was not using the strainer in their kitchen sink. He didn’t think he needed to since he scrapes all of the large pieces of food in the trash. But what about the teeny tiny pieces? If our husbands lived together, they would have some hefty bills from the plumber. The FOG sent down the drain would cling to the pipe walls and catch all of those teeny tiny pieces and eventually make a big ol’ clog. And there’s more. She also caught her husband (why is it always the husbands?) leaving grass clippings on the sidewalk because “the rain will wash it away into the storm drain.” And not just any storm drain. A storm drain that resides on the worst hit street in the state of Virginia by Hurricane Matthew. Their house flooded, their floors floated, they evacuated in the middle of the night. Everyone on their street is all too familiar with the stormwater system and how important it is to keep things flowing. PLUS, grass clippings pollute our waterways with excess nutrients. Our husbands are both smart people, but it seems we’ve overlooked them in our quest to save the world. 

We all need reminders now and then, so please, take this home with you today:

Meat water is not real. Fatbergs are real. 

Google it. Then educate your spouses.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, For educators, Gardening, Going Green, Household tips, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Uncategorized, Waterways

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askHRgreen.org Honors Environmental Action Award Winners

Posted on February 23, 2017 by | Comments Off

Mr. Amber LaMonte, teacher at York High School Dr. Ella Ward, Chesapeake City Council Member and HRPDC Chair Mr. Michael Hipple, Chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors and HRPDC Vice Chair Mr. Thomas G. Shepperd, Jr., Member, York County Board of Supervisors Mr. Neil Morgan, County Administrator, York County Last week, askHRgreen.org recognized two local schools and educators for their commitment to environmental stewardship and leadership. Wendy VanHosen, assistant principal at John Yeates Middle School in Suffolk, and Amber LaMonte, a teacher at York High School in Yorktown, each received the Environmental Action Award from askHRgreen.org on Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) meeting in Chesapeake.

Ms. Wendy VanHosen, assistant principal at John Yeates Middle School Dr. Ella Ward, Chesapeake City Council Member and HRPDC Chair Mr. Michael Hipple, Chair of the James City County Board of Supervisors and HRPDC Vice Chair Mr. Lue R. Ward, Jr., Suffolk Council Member The Environmental Action Award was developed to recognize individuals who inspire youth (K-12) to have a positive impact on the environment by taking action in their schools or communities. The winning projects had previously received funding through the askHRgreen.org mini-grant program and were selected as outstanding by a panel of local askHRgreen.org representatives from the HRPDC’s 17 member jurisdictions and HRSD. The John Yeates Middle School and York High School projects were among 19 projects under consideration for the award, all of which were funded by askHRgreen.org in 2016.

John Yeates Middle School was recognized for VanHosen’s leadership of a school-wide recycling program.Students from JYMS, Suffolk

“This project is a shining example of what can be done when students, teachers and community partners work together,” said Katie Cullipher, askHRgreen.org team leader. “Not only did the project focus on the importance of recycling and reducing landfill contributions, but also on integrating diverse studies from art to science to social studies. The project itself is a sustainable initiative that will continue to impact students and the environment for years to come.”

At York High School, LaMonte helped the school’s green team improve availability and access to tap water and reduce plastic bottle waste by installing a water bottle filling station at the school.

Students from YHS, York County“We were impressed that the students tracked data on water usage and challenged their peers to reduce waste. Because of their efforts, the school experienced a 75 percent increase in the number of students carrying reusable water bottles,” said Cullipher. “While the projects may have started with a simple idea and a small amount of grant funding,  both serve as a legacy to their schools and will continue to remind students and faculty alike that we can each make an impact by thinking globally and acting locally.”

In addition to the award, each school received a check for $100.00 to be spent to further their project or to launch a new environmental initiative.

askHRgreen.org offers environmental education mini-grants of up to $500 to provide funding for environmentally-themed projects for students. All Hampton Roads teachers (K-12), youth leaders or organizations working with youth are eligible to apply. For details visit www.askhrgreen.org/mini-grant-program/

 

Posted in: For educators, HR Green campaign updates

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Virginia Beach Goes Beyond the Curb in New Video

Posted on August 4, 2016 by | Comments Off

Video Provides Fresh Look at Waste Management Services

What happens to trash, recycling and yard debris after residents place it at the curb? Virginia Beach Public Work’s Waste Management division, with production assistance from the Communications Office’s Multimedia Services division, created a new video, “Beyond the Curb, Virginia Beach Waste Management Services,” that shows it all. It is available on VBTV’s YouTube page, www.youtube.com/VirginiaBeachTV and is being rolled out to the community through online resources. Staff will use it as part of future public presentations as well.

Enjoy!  

 

Blog contributed by Craig Simmons, Recycling Administrative Technician for the City of Virginia Beach.

Posted in: For educators, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Two Tons of Plastic Bags Recovered from Hampton Schools

Posted on June 14, 2016 by | Comments Off

Congratulations to Hampton Christian Academy Elementary for winning the Trex Plastic Bag Challenge again! They collected 1,035 pounds of plastic bags and consumer films and achieved a pounds per student ratio of 7.238. They will receive a Trex plastic bench. They are ranked number 5 in all 550 participating  schools by student ratio.

Congratulations also to Phoebus High School! The students there collected the most pounds of plastics bags – 1,205 – which is an equivalent of approximately 93,000 plastic bags! Because of their higher student population, their ratio was 1.004. The students collected nearly a quarter of all the plastic bags collected in Hampton during the competition.

Congratulations to Armstrong School of the Arts – they had the highest public school ratio in the city – 2.507 pounds per student.

Altogether, 16 schools in Hampton participated this year and collected a combined total of 5,166 pounds of bags and consumer films! That’s more than 2 tons of plastic bags. Think about that the next time you hold a plastic bag in your hand! That’s nearly 400,000 plastic bags! Nearly all the schools were supported by volunteers who helped transport the bags and plastic film to Farm Fresh locations for recycling. Thank you Farm Fresh stores, for allowing the participants to bring their plastic bags to your store!

Congratulations to all the participants for facilitating the students’ participation in this contest! Because of staff and volunteer support, nearly 10,000 students had the opportunity to participate in a fun and meaningful activity. Many thanks for your efforts!

Trex-Hampton

Posted in: For educators, plastic bags, Reduce reuse and recycle, Uncategorized

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