Lessons Learned in Going Green

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Lessons Learned in Going Green

In Dallas, Peter Goldstein started a hands-on program that teaches high school students about recycling and entrepreneurship -- and that even pays off.

As told to Arunjana Das

What made you start the program?

Rather than just studying and talking about recycling, the goal was to get students to actively participate.

How does it work?

We call it the Skyline Green Team. About 50 to 60 kids go through campus with recycling roll carts collecting trash and depositing it in three large recycling Dumpsters. Faculty and staff have joined the Skyline Green Team as well, and teachers have recycling boxes in their classrooms.

What's being recycled now that wasn't before?

We started collecting plastic bottles in 2008. Last year we expanded to paper, followed by corrugated cardboard. I didn't realize it, but we use huge amounts in cardboard lunch boxes. Now we recycle all of it.

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How much stuff is recycled and what's the payoff?


This year we'll recycle 18 to 21 tons, which will put us in the black by about $280. Recyclers pay just pennies per cubic yard of material. But the school district is saving thousands a month on landfill fees.

What do students get out of this?

No one gets paid, but a few teachers give academic credit. We are doing this to let the students apply what they learn in class. For example, students in the architecture class learn that a plastic bottle that is thrown away has a short, expensive and unsustainable life cycle, while the life cycle of a recycled plastic bottle makes better sense both environmentally and economically.

What do you teach beyond recycling?


Students learn that innovation and technology can provide a lot of potential for making money.

Please give an example.

Students here are making chairs out of recycled cardboard and countertops out of recycled glass bottles. The chairs are based on designs by architect Frank Gehry, and everybody wants to sit on them. I'm trying to engage the science classes to come up with more ideas.

Where do you go from here?


We would definitely like to expand the program to other schools in our district.