Blog : The Future of New Hampshire's Natural Beauty Begins in the Classroom

By Craig | May 20, 2015 | in

From an early age we're taught the basics of good citizenship, like throwing our garbage in the bin instead of on the ground, or recycling bottles and paper. New Hampshire the Beautiful helps bring the "why" back into the classroom discussion on these issues through different events and educational programs.

New Hampshire the Beautiful has long been an advocate for responsible recycling and waste disposal throughout the state. The non-profit, comprised of a team of grocers and beverage companies, helps towns and cities throughout the state develop recycling programs. The nonprofit does the same for area schools.

To ensure these programs' success, New Hampshire the Beautiful partners with Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA), a non-profit made-up of over 400 state municipalities, individuals and businesses throughout New England, to meet with school administrators and school board directors to develop and implement recycling and waste programs in schools. New Hampshire the Beautiful's board insists every person - from the principal, to faculty, to the janitorial staff - are included in these meetings to ensure they are educated on proper procedures.

"Then we go and have an assembly, where all the kids at the school come together and [the NRRA speaker] goes to length explaining what they’re going to do at the school system," said John Dumais, President and CEO of the N.H. Grocers Association and long-time member of New Hampshire the Beautiful's board of directors. "They first start off with having some bins put into each classroom, which we provide for them no charge, and then they start a recycling program. They also have a sign put up that they can keep track of how much they have recycled, so they have an incentive all year long of what they are doing."

The program is called the NRRA School Recycling Club. To date, the Club boasts 230 member schools and over 85,000 participating students, offering six different in-classroom workshops and three technical assistance programs.

One program to get students thinking about the amount of waste they produce each day, is called Trash on the Lawn Day. For this program, students go through the cafeteria at the end of lunch periods and take trash bags out of the bins carrying them outside to a large open tarp. The students are tasked with seeking out and separating cardboard, bottles and other recyclables that were thrown out with regular garbage.

"It’s mainly just an eye opener to them that with recycling, they don’t have as much waste going through the system," said Dumais.

In the classroom, the NRRA School Recycling Club offers workshops tailored for grades K to 12. Each workshop runs for 50 minutes and are designed to be hands-on including; splitting off into teams to evaluate and report back on a school's environmental practices and policies using a waste-focused School Sustainability Scorecard, explaining and demonstrating how composting works, and learning how to create non-toxic home cleaning products using common, inexpensive ingredients and materials. And there are many more, varied programs the NRRA School Recycling Club has for students to learn through.

Though the school programs are relatively new, nearing three years, Dumais says he's seen students perceptions change on the issue and believes, moving forward, they will think differently about recycling and waste disposal in their homes and when they one day have children of their own. Dumais credits the hands-on nature of the programs for having a real, fundamental effect on students.

"It definitely opens their eyes immediately when they do the Trash on the Lawn and they see how much their school has recycled," he said.

The NRRA will host their annual convention on June 9 in Manchester, sponsored in part by New Hampshire the Beautiful, and will give out upward of eight different awards for recycling efforts within the school system.

To learn more about New Hampshire the Beautiful's school intitiatives, and the NRRA's School Recycling Club benefits, click here!