Recent workshops in Sleepy Eye (March 30) and Mankato (April 5) prepared YES! students with knowledge, activities, and resources about reducing waste at home, at school, or in their community. Participating schools were Sleepy Eye Public, St. Mary’s Catholic (Sleepy Eye), Mankato East, Mankato West, and Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
At both workshops, Jane Dow from Mankato Area Zero Waste taught about recycling and the problems with plastic. She began by making the case for organics recycling, better known as composting, and then led an activity.
Students had been instructed to bring to the workshop a small collection of recyclable waste from home. In groups, the students discussed their items, separating them into “Recyclable” and “Landfill” piles. Jane asked each group for examples of items that they weren’t sure how to classify and then explained which ones can be recycled, and where.
“The sorting activity was important for students to stop and think before they toss,” said Mary Beth Botz, who teaches at St. Mary’s and co-coaches the Sleepy Eye YES! Team. “I find that either they throw everything in the trash or everything in the recycle. It was valuable for them to evaluate their choices.”
Next, Jane gave a sobering presentation on the negative impacts that using plastics has on human health and the environment. She closed her session by showing participants a variety of sustainable products for home and personal care that contain few or no plastics.
During the April 5 workshop, participants boarded a school bus for a tour of Mankato’s waste management and resource recovery facilities led by Bill Goebel, Blue Earth County Waste Operations Coordinator. The highlight of the tour was driving down into the Ponderosa Landfill, where students saw covered waste pits, leachate ponds, an ash field, plastic pollution, and wildlife. In the distance, a flock of gulls revealed where trash was being placed in an open pit. Bill explained how he and his staff monitor the entire landfill for potential pollution in order to comply with environmental regulations and to protect local water, soil, and air quality.
“This workshop was perfectly in line with the needs of our YES! team,” said Mankato East teacher Julia Battern. “The students (and I) were able to think about waste in the Mankato community through the bus tour to better understand where things go when we are done using them.”
The Waste Reduction Workshops were organized by YES! Coordinator Deb Groebner. YES! is a program of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in partnership with Ney Nature Center. Major support for YES! comes from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), and the National Science Foundation Grant 2147839 with UMN Institute on the Environment.