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Development Group Fund Launches Waste Reduction Plan

Berkeley High School (BHS) is implementing a waste reduction plan as part of the district-wide sustainability plan. The plan will be partially funded by the BHS Development Group (BHSDG) and partially funded by the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD).

The waste reduction plan outlined in the grant proposal, Striving for Zero Waste, submitted by the BHS Green Team this January, includes placing more bins for trash and recycling on campus, hiring an assembly speaker, promoting the plan, and hiring a coordinator for the plan. Susan Silber, BUSD’s Sustainability Consultant, wrote the district-wide sustainability plan in collaboration with the Facilities Department, which includes other sustainability measures regarding water and energy-saving, for example. Silber mentioned the low diversion rate at BHS, where only 19 percent of waste is recycled or composted, while the average rate for BUSD schools is around 50 percent. She hopes that the waste reduction program and the work of the BHS Green Team will help to change this.

The BUSD school board passed the sustainability plan in November 2018 with initial funding of $106,000 for the next year and a half. Of that, $20,000 is for waste reduction for the next five months. Stopwaste and the Altamont Advisory Board, which funds projects aimed at waste reduction, granted those funds to BUSD.

The sustainability plan includes waste reduction at BHS and other BUSD schools. “It’s a very comprehensive plan,” said Silber.

With limited funds for the waste reduction program, Silber wrote a grant to the BHSDG along with teacher Anne Frost and the Green Team to pay for the program at BHS. BHSDG, which evaluates grant proposals every month, met with Silber and Stephen Collins, BUSD’s maintenance manager, to inquire as to why BUSD wasn’t providing more funding for the high school. Rosa Luevano, co-president of the BHSDG said that Collins told them, “[BUSD] felt that the program didn’t have enough funds to really start all the schools [with the waste reduction program] on the right level, and so they felt that starting with the elementary schools and below was the most likely way to go to because they figure if they get the kids to buy in from the lower grades then as they come up it’ll be more sustainable.” BHSDG argued that BHS students have a high level of interest in participating in the waste reduction program and that it should have been taken into consideration. On February 4, BHSDG decided to grant BHS $4,150, the full amount requested in the Striving for Zero Waste grant proposal. According to Luevano and Silber, BUSD has decided it will allocate some funding, amount currently unspecified, to BHS for waste reduction, which Silber added that she had been pushing for. 

BHSDG deferred voting on the Striving for Zero Waste grant in January as it “wanted to pursue it further with the district, to see why [BHS] didn’t receive any funds,” said Luevano. She said the BHSDG believes the waste reduction plan is a good idea and good use of funds, but that if the waste reduction plan is supposed to be district-wide, BUSD should provide some of the funding along with BHSDG.

To kick off Striving for Zero Waste, Silber organized a meeting on February 5. According to Silber, around forty people attended, comprised of community members from most of the BUSD schools, as well as some members of the Green Team. “I’m really excited about the potential for Berkeley High to both save money and resources,” said Silber. “We hope that students and BHS staff will all support this important effort.”