Lethbridge School Division gets A+ for embracing waste program changes
As the City’s Mandatory Recycling and Mandatory Organics program is getting ready to grade the first year of annual waste reports from the Lethbridge industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector, one organization is already sitting at the top of the class.
Lethbridge School Division (LSD) has been working hard for several months on creating a new way for their staff and students to divert their waste.
“I thought, oh my gosh, how are we going to do this? But after we started working through the information, it quickly turned into a really fun project that everyone from students to staff have been able to work on together,” says Christine Lee, LSD Associate Superintendent, Business and Operations. “We formed a sub-committee and we got to work on figuring out, how we could design a program that incorporates the changes but doesn’t add too much additional work to our caretaking staff.”
The organization, which includes more than 25 schools and administration buildings and facilities, used a variety of resources to help them navigate the change.
“The information from the City’s website with the Recycling and Organics Guide and the sign-making tool were very helpful and easy to understand,” says Lee. “We also looked at what other school divisions had implemented and worked with our hauler to see what requirements they had too,” says Lee. “The initiative we created that had the most impact and was super fun though was our RE3 program.”
The program is centered around reducing, reusing and recycling and helps staff and students to understand the bigger environmental picture when it comes to waste.
“We had so much fun with the program. We did a roving reporter series, talked to staff and students about their experience with the new waste program. We even created a contest where classes could enter their ideas and projects to help raise awareness about the program,” says Lee. “The winners were recently announced and they won a tour the City’s Waste & Recycling Centre followed by a pizza party.”
Ultimately, Lee says LSD wanted to ensure the new waste program worked for everyone to get as much participation as possible.
“Each school was able to customize and tweak the program to make it easy and something that would work for their school,” says Lee. “We didn’t expect everyone to use the program perfectly, right away but over time, we’ve collectively been getting better and better.”
As the deadline for the first annual waste reporting gets closer, Lee has a few words of advice for any business or organization who are unsure about where to start.
“Try it out, find out what’s working and what’s not,” says Lee. “Take one step at a time and build something that works for you. We wanted to model the behaviour of doing the right thing by the planet for our students and it’s been such a fun way to help create a more sustainable future for us all.”
Over the past year, the City has engaged with the ICI sector in many ways to help inform and support businesses and organizations through this change says Felipe Albuquerque, Waste Diversion Engineer, City of Lethbridge Waste & Environment department.
“We want to set up the local businesses, organizations and institutions for success in helping them through these changes,” says Albuquerque. “We know these folks have a lot to juggle so making this process as straightforward as possible was important. We have visited more than 550 businesses in-person to help communicate these changes in addition to presenting at industry meetings like the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown BRZ, by writing to them directly with emails, letters and postcards and advertising the changes locally.”
Lethbridge is home to more than 2,900 businesses, institutions and private organizations. Whether large, small, family-owned, part of a national corporation, for-profit, or a charitable organization, all businesses fall under the Mandatory Recycling and Mandatory Organics provisions within the City of Lethbridge’s Waste Bylaw 6146. The bylaw also requires businesses to complete an annual waste report which is due on January 31, 2024.
For more information on Mandatory Recycling and Mandatory Organics for businesses, visit www.lethbridge.ca/businesswaste.
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