One Cool Earth staff lead students through a campus waste audit.

Salinas River to the Sea Litter Program

One Cool Earth partnered 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 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) provided 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 program started 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 worked with the schools to implement waste reduction programs and provide students with the tools to make a measurable 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 were trained on marine debris and their local watersheds, then engaged in peer mentoring and participated 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 worked closely with school custodians to implement strategies including adding recycling bins, building vermiculture compost bins, and encouraging low-waste lunches. 

What were the project results? 
This project reached a total of 7,500 students during the 2016-2017 school year. To expand the program, OCE also conducted two teacher trainings that reached 25 teachers and developed a manual to encourage other schools to adopt similar strategies. 

OCE engaged a total of 17 schools in the Salinas River watershed. At each of the 17 schools, OCE taught a four-part marine debris education program and then evaluated the students on knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors related to marine debris. OCE also conducted waste audits of their schools waste stream, reviewed and improved waste handling processes, and hosted field trips. 

Green Teams, made up of students and teachers, were created at 16 schools. These teams continued monitoring the composting and recycling systems that were installed at the schools to ensure their continued use.

Last updated Wed, 11/30/2022 - 10:36 am EST