Despite the elementary green team facing obstacles in their efforts, Molalla has become the only school district in the county to have green schools at all grade levels.

PIONEER PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Noelle Veveiros and her elementary school green team celebrated becoming an Oregon Green School on June 1.

Since Molalla Middle School became an Oregon Green School, both Molalla High and Molalla Elementary have followed suit, making Molalla River School District the only district in Clackamas County to have green schools for grades K-12.

The green school coordinator for Clackamas County is impressed with Molalla's efforts.

"It was pretty amazing that all of this came from within the schools, and I think that's why it's gone so well," said Laurel Bates, the school waste reduction education coordinator for Clackamas County Refuse & Recycling Association and Clackamas County Resource Conservation & Solid Waste.

COURTESY PHOTO: NATALEE LITCHFIELD - Natalee Litchfield shows off Molalla High School's Oregon Green School certificate.At the high school level, it was Molalla Pioneer's 2018 Amazing Kid Natalee Litchfield who pushed the school toward green school status. She has worked to get recycling stations in the cafeteria, to reduce waste and to begin composting. In addition, next year, the cafeteria will be free of polystyrene cartons.

"It is such an honor to be a certified green school, especially seeing how far the student body has come with their personal environmental consciousness," Litchfield said. "It was quite a bit of work and we are still working to complete all of our goals. Regardless, becoming an OGS was so worth it if it means helping the world."

At the elementary level, teacher Noelle Veveiros was the driving force. She not only put together a green team at the school, but she also became an OGS Sustainability Captain. At a recent assembly, she and her green team sported green shirts that were purchased by the Parent Teacher Committee and which the students screen-printed themselves.

"This team worked really hard at making Molalla Elementary more sustainable with both waste reduction and energy reduction," Veveiros said at the assembly. "They've gone into classrooms to help lead recycling initiatives and energy initiatives, and because of all of their hard work, Molalla Elementary is now an Oregon Green School."

Veveiros's green team has put in much effort to help the elementary school become more sustainable. They found that they initially had 68.6 pounds of food waste per day, which amounts to 11,000 pounds over the course of an academic year. But the green team went into classrooms and led an assembly to teach kids how to reduce this waste.

Those efforts have been noticed at the county level.

"I presented in a third grade classroom," Bates said, "and every student in that classroom could articulate what it meant to be a green school…[Veveiros] has done a really great job of making it a school-wide effort."

But the elementary green team has faced challenges in achieving their goals.

As a part of their requirements for becoming a green school, they were supposed to set up a sharing table in the cafeteria to reduce food waste. They did so, following FDA guidelines. But a representative from the school's food service company, Sodexo, told them they couldn't do it and even threw everything from the table into the garbage.

Veveiros followed through on that by contacting the county health inspector, who told her they could have the sharing table, following guidelines similar to the FDA's.

But the Sodexo representative went to the district and the decision was made to not allow the sharing table.

"It is disappointing that students in our district aren't given the opportunity to share the allowed items to help reduce food waste," Veveiros said. "Oregon Green Schools hasn't come across this before, but understood our Green Team did what we could to accomplish the requirements even though we hit that road block."

Despite obstacles, through concerted efforts and perseverance, Molalla now has three Oregon Green Schools. Bates hopes and expects to see more of the elementary schools work towards it in the future.

Kristen Wohlers
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