Contact: Pamela McCurdy, 651-757-2559
Saint Paul, Minn. - Many Minnesota school districts are looking ways for save money, and reducing waste can be one of the solutions. This past fall, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency launched Minnesota GreenCorps to help preserve and protect Minnesota’s environment while training a new generation of environmental professionals. Minnesota GreenCorps is an AmeriCorps program funded by ServeMinnesota and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Minnesota GreenCorps has 18 full-time and 4 half-time members working in five focus areas around the state: Local Government Energy Conservation; School Waste Prevention; Living Green Outreach; Local Food Systems and Urban Forestry.
Stephanie Baublitz , a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is a Minnesota GreenCorps member working as a School Waste Prevention Specialist with the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District (WLSSD). WLSSD covers 530 square miles including Duluth, rural St. Louis County and northern Carlton County. Baublitz role is to help schools reduce waste and recycle more.
Baublitz, who is currently assisting 11 schools, started working with each school to find out what they are already doing to reduce waste and what they can improve upon. She takes the whole school approach by including custodial staff, parents, students, teacher and principals. During waste audits, some of the solutions can be as simple as including more bins in the right areas and having them properly marked. Baublitz also does educational presentations to classrooms to teach students what to do, and works with teachers on curriculum as education is a part of the mix in increasing participation in recycling.
Schools can be very different in terms of type of waste they handle as well as best strategies to reduce waste. High school students, for example, use more beverage containers than elementary schools. All schools can work on reducing paper consumption and making sure all paper and cardboard is recycled.
Four of the schools Baublitz works with are implementing food waste composting. Food waste is one of the largest materials in a school’s waste stream. Teaching the staff and students what food is acceptable for composting and where it goes is drastically cutting the amount of food waste.
One of the biggest surprises Baublitz has experienced is the enthusiasm of parents and students. She has had parents call to request help at their schools and has been asked to work with parent groups on what they can do to implement more recycling and waste reduction at their children’s schools. Baublitz was also impressed with the knowledge of the students. They know a lot about recycling, but have not necessarily done it at school because of a lack of programs.
Baublitz’s tenure as a GreenCorps member will end in August but she has already had success. At Lakewood Elementary in Duluth, the school was previously collecting one 96-gallon cart of paper and beverage containers per pick up. After working with the school to increase the number of bins and educate the school community on what goes in those bins, Lakewood Elementary has tripled their collection.
“Stephanie has a level of confidence now working with a wide variety of stakeholders in the community and we are thrilled to have her work on our programs,” said Karen Anderson, WSLLD. “We have so many schools coming to us asking for help in reducing waste and implementing food waste programs, but we can’t handle all of the requests. This has been a great opportunity for our community.”
If you’d like more information on Minnesota GreenCorps, please contact Stephanie Souter at firstname.lastname@example.org.