Salinas River to the Sea Litter Program
One Cool Earth staff lead students through a campus waste audit.
One Cool Earth staff lead students through a campus waste audit. (Photo Credit: One Cool Earth)

One Cool Earth is partnering with the NOAA Marine Debris Program and 17 schools in Paso Robles and Atascadero, California, to implement school litter and waste reduction programs.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: California

Project Dates: August 2016 - July 2017

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, One Cool Earth (OCE) is providing technical assistance, materials, and training to local schools in Paso Robles and Atascadero, California, to reduce the amount of waste entering the Salinas River watershed.

What is the project and why is it important?
The vast majority of marine debris comes from land-based sources, and it is all generated by humans. Preventing debris at the source is the most efficient and effective approach, but diverting waste from landfills through increased recycling and composting is also important. Targeting youth through formal and experiential education instills these behaviors at a young age for life-long stewardship and awareness of the impacts waste can have on the environment.

OCE programs start by teaching students and educators about the marine debris issue and how the waste created in their everyday lives can impact ocean ecosystems. OCE then works with the schools to implement waste reduction programs and provide students with the tools to make a measureable difference in the amount of debris that may make its way to the ocean. As part of this project, students from lead classrooms at each participating school are trained on marine debris and their local watersheds, then engage in peer mentoring and participate in fun activities such as creating “marine debris monsters,” visiting local shorelines and museums, and beach cleanups. Following a campus-wide waste audit, OCE staff work closely with school custodians to implement strategies including adding recycling bins, building vermiculture compost bins, and encouraging low-waste lunches. This project is reaching a total of 7,500 students during the 2016-2017 school year. To expand the program, OCE is also conducting teacher trainings and developing a manual to encourage other schools to adopt similar strategies.

For more information on this project, check out the Marine Debris Clearinghouse and to learn more about One Cool Earth’s work on school campuses, check out this video on the project.