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Willow Creek Academy students cleaning up trash
Willow Creek Academy, Sausalito, CA

Taking Out the Trash

By Liz Liang

Think you could go a day without throwing away any trash?

What about a whole week? Here's your chance to find out. Join students across California as they try to cut down their environmental impact during Zero Waste Week!

From March 17 to 21, students at twenty Ocean Guardian Schools throughout California's watersheds will be leading this annual effort to reduce the amount of waste — especially single-use plastics — that makes its way into our streams, rivers and ocean. These forward-thinking youth will be replacing disposable plastic bags and bottles with their reusable counterparts, saying "no thanks" to plastic straws and carry-out food containers, and stepping up recycling and composting efforts on campus.

Captain Cooper School students exploring a rocky coast

Captain Cooper School students exploring a rocky coast.

"We had a 67% decrease in non-recyclable single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, baggies, and chip bags," said Paula Terui, principal of Captain Cooper School in Big Sur, Calif.

Created by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in 2010, the Ocean Guardian School Program now includes 60 participating schools and more than 15,000 students who have pledged to help make the ocean a cleaner, healthier place. Each school makes a commitment to the protection and conservation of its local watersheds, the world's ocean, and special ocean areas, such as the national marine sanctuaries.

New York Harbor school students using reclaimed oyster and clam shell for habitat creation

"Over the past year we have collected and reused more than 3 TONS of oyster and clam shells from four New York City restaurants. This shell collection and curing program reduces landfill carting and reclaims oyster shell for habitat creation."
-Lead Teacher, New York Harbor School, NYC

"Kids don't always realize how the oceans are protected and how their daily activity impacts those areas," said Seaberry Nachbar, director of the Ocean Guardian Schools program. "The program helps make a direct connection between what students do with their daily activities and how they affect the ocean."

Murals from Soquel Elementary School, Soquel, CA

Murals from Soquel Elementary School, Soquel, CA

Ocean Guardian schools receive up to $4,000 to fund school- or community-based conservation projects, which the students help implement. They are also responsible for collecting data and quantifying the impact of each project. Through efforts like beach cleanups, recycling drives and Zero Waste Week, more than 150,000 pounds of trash in total have been removed from participating schools and their local communities.

Read more about Ocean Guardian Schools and find out how your local school can apply to join the program today: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/education/ocean_guardian/become.html

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