January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Going Green: Striving to Reduce Waste at a Middle School

Posted: Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

by Jessica Hunt

Community-based Social Marketing (CBSM) is the current trend in influencing the public to make more eco-friendly choices. Marketing strategies of the past focused solely on dissemination of information while CBSM focuses on removing barriers that make the desired outcome difficult to achieve. This paper details the construction of a CBSM plan to reduce waste sent to the landfill at a public middle school in California. Strategies employed in this CBSM include making the desired action more convenient, prompting, and social diffusion. Strategies for designing your own CBSM plan are also discussed.

The Problem

The planet is currently drowning in human-produced waste, especially plastics. The oceans are congested with pollution, biodiversity on Earth is declining, and the climate is changing (Erikson et al, 2014; Abreo et al, 2015; Javeline, Hellmann, Cornejo, & Shufeldt, 2013). Erikson et al. (2014) found that there is over 250,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface of the world’s oceans. The problem with plastics is not just limited to ocean pollution. Plastics are easily moved by wind and water, take hundreds of years to decompose, and are made from fossil fuels (Jambeck et al., 2015; Baum, Haqq-Misra, & Karmosky, 2012). Diverting or reducing plastic waste is an important topic because of the detrimental effects plastics have on the environment and biodiversity.

Schools are a prime target as sites for waste reduction because of how many people spend their daily lives in a school. In the state of California alone, there are over 6 million students and nearly 300,000 public school teachers (CA Department of Education, 2016). This data does not include students in private schools or non-teaching staff members in schools. Imagine the amount of people who could have a positive environmental impact if school districts around the state were to update procedures regarding waste production and handling.

Community-based social marketing (CBSM) is a strategy that is being used to engage the public in various environmentally-friendly behaviors. Historically, most campaigns that attempted to change individuals’ behaviors focused on education, however, CBSM is a newer strategy that seems to be finding success (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000). The four steps of CBSM will be explained in this paper through the journey of working to reduce waste at a public middle school in California.

Step 1: Research

Conducting research is an important first step in developing a CBSM campaign. Without proper research, it is impossible to know if the cause of an issue is being addressed by the “solutions.” Several layers of research were conducted before beginning the development of this plan. First, observational data was collected of student waste habits in areas where the most waste is generated. Students were observed inside classrooms, outside in the halls, and during lunch. The goal of the observational data was to determine the following things: 1) if students were engaging in recycling; 2) if students were recycling correctly, and 3) what types of items were the most common. The most common waste items would be the target of the CBSM plan.

Another valuable source of data was semi-structured interviews with people who are considered key players in the issue of waste collection and those who are in management roles at the school. Interviews were conducted with the principal, cafeteria manager, and lead custodian. Finally, a literature review was conducted to look for guidance and best practices for moving towards a zero waste lunch, or at least towards waste reduction at school. The research revealed that the most trash appeared to be food waste from the meals students eat at school, so this would be the focus of the CBSM plan. During observations, it was noted that a single student had, on average, seven different waste items after collecting his or her lunch (straw, napkin, plastic utensils, plastic packaging, bowl or wrapper, and paper tray).

In the course of the research, barriers to the desired behaviors were also uncovered. Barriers are the things that may be preventing someone from engaging in the desired behavior — in this case, correctly disposing of lunchtime waste. Many students did not recycle their lunch waste correctly, either dumping all of their waste in the recycle or all in the trash. Another thing commonly observed was students shooting waste at the bins as if they were playing basketball. More often than not, students were shooting their waste at the recycle bin. The recycling cans in the lunch area are the large, rolling type cans, so they are bigger than the trash bins sitting next to them. It seems that the students are shooting their waste at the recycle cans simply because those cans are a larger target.

Once barriers have been uncovered, the target behavior needs to be selected. The target behavior should be one that can overcome the barriers. In this case, the target behavior is getting students to correctly sort their waste into recyclables and landfill material.

Step 2: Plan

An effective plan needs to overcome or even remove barriers. There are several possible tactics to use when designing a CBSM campaign, but the most prominent strategies are removing the barriers by increasing the convenience, creating a social norm, and prompting. When designing a CBSM plan, a person can employ more than one strategy for the greatest chance of success. In this example, the first strategy was convenience – making it simple for students to do the correct thing. Pike et al. (2003) found that student participation in recycling was significantly greater when students were provided with an opportunity to recycle along with education about how to recycle. In the lunch area, every trash can was placed next to a recycling bin, eliminating the need for students to walk around in search of a recycling bin. Next, prompts were placed on each bin directing students what goes in each container the prompts were specific to the items students actually have with them for lunch. For example, in the trash bin, there is an image of the plastic spoon students are given with their lunch, while on the recycling bin is an image of the recyclable plastic bowls. Similar prompts were also created for the classroom recycling bins. Inside each classroom, there is a small paper bin, and a larger bottle and can bin. Students are frequently confused as to what goes in each bin, so this can be simplified with a large, graphic prompt indicating what is to be placed in each bin. According to Kelly, Pechmann, and Reibling (2010), school-based social marketing plans are only successful when the campaign is implemented with fidelity and all participants are on board. To be sure a plan goes well, there needs to be open and clear communication between all involved parties (Hemmert, 2004).

Step 3: Pilot

Once your plan has been developed it has to be tested! It is best, to begin with a limited pilot of the plan, so any problems can be addressed and corrected before the plan is broadly implemented. If the pilot of a CBSM plan is successful, then the campaign can be spread widely; if the plan is not successful then it is necessary to head back to the drawing board, revise the plan, and pilot again.

Step 4: Evaluate

One critical component of CBSM is a method for evaluating the campaign. How will success be measured? In the example described above, evaluation was quantitative data collected by the school district which measured the percent of waste that was diverted from the landfill. When measuring the success of a CBSM campaign, it is important to have actual data to analyze, and not to just rely on what people report they are doing.

Going further

The goal of this CBSM plan was to divert waste from the local landfill as quickly as possible, given more time, permanent steps could be taken to make a positive impact on the waste produced at school.  Suggestions for making a longer lasting impact include changing the way food is packaged at school or getting compostable utensils instead of plastics, but CBSM is a great way to quickly make an impact.        

Literature Cited

Abreo, N., Macusi, E., Cuenca, G., Ranara, C., Andam, M., Cardona, L., & Arabejo, G. (2015). Nutrient enrichment, sedimentation, heavy metals and plastic pollution in the marine environment and its implications on philippine marine biodiversity: A review. IAMURE International Journal of Ecology & Conservation15111-167. doi:10.7718/ijec.v15i1.999

Baum, S., Haqq-Misra, J., & Karmosky, C. (2012). Climate Change: Evidence of Human Causes and Arguments for Emissions Reduction. Science & Engineering Ethics, 18(2), 393-410. doi:10.1007/s11948-011-9270-6

California Department of Education (2016). Fingertip Facts on Education in California – CalEdFacts. Retrieved from http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/cb/ceffingertipfacts.asp

Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L., Carson, H., Thiel, M., Moore, C., Borerro, J., Galgani, F., Ryan, P., & Reisser, J. (2014). Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans: More than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea. Plos ONE9(12), 1-15. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111913

Hemmert, A. (2004). Waste-Free Lunches: A lesson in environmental stewardship. Green Teacher, 7418-23.

Jambeck, J., Perryman, M., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T., Andrady, A., & … Law, K. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768-771. doi:10.1126/science.1260352

Javeline, D., Hellmann, J., Cornejo, R., & Shufeldt, G. (2013). Expert opinion on climate change and threats to biodiversity. BioScience, (8). 666.

Kelly, K., Pechmann, C., & Reibling, E. T. (2010). The Opportunities and Challenges of School-Based Research for Social Marketers. Social Marketing Quarterly, 16(4), 2. doi:10.1080/15245004.2010.522763

McKenzie-Mohr, D. (2000). Promoting sustainable behavior: An introduction to community-based social marketing. Journal Of Social Issues, 56(3), 543-554.

Pike, L., Shannon, T., Lawrimore, K., McGee, A., Taylor, M., & Lamoreaux, G. (2003). Science education and sustainability initiatives: A campus recycling case study shows the importance of opportunity. International Journal Of Sustainability In Higher Education, 4(3), 218-229.


Jessica Hunt is a teacher at Bell Middle school in San Diego, California. 

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.