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Blue and Gold Make Green: A High School Recycling Success Story

2011 August 23

By Tess Clinkingbeard

I was always interested in the environment, but I never imagined that this curiosity would result in my being a student intern at the EPA!

It all started when my high school’s Green Team won the President’s Environmental Youth Award and two representatives, from the EPA office in Seattle, came to our school to present our award.

Out of all the PEYA contestants last year in Region 10, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, Tahoma’s Green Team was selected to have done the best job of improving our community’s environment.

From September 2009 to December 2010, Tahoma High School began five specialized recycling programs, for everything from Styrofoam to batteries—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Led by Green Team President, Cort Hammond, Tahoma’s Green Team was able to do two adopt-a-road events, initiate food waste recycling at our school and become a Level One Green School. We were able to save the school district $24,000 through lunchroom recycling.

Tahoma’s Green Team Motto, “Blue and Gold Make Green!” after the school’s colors, is a perfect summation of the transformation that has occurred. As you approach the school, there are five solar panels on the front, which generate some of the energy we use every day. There are recycling bins in every classroom, posters about how to sort waste in the lunchroom and every light switch has a reminder sticker about turning off the lights when leaving the room. The student store and coffee stand have compostable cups. Green Team is working on extending that to utensils and reusable dishes.

All of our hard work paid off in the form of a National PEYA Award. When we received our award, we were also notified about summer internships, and, after an interview and a lot of paperwork, I was working at the EPA! I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work so closely with those on the frontlines of the battle for environmental justice. The EPA’s summer internship program is an amazing opportunity to gain real life experience.

About the author: Tess Clinkingbeard is a Senior at Tahoma High School, and is now a Co-President, along with Cassandra Houghton, of the Green Team. She is currently interning at the EPA’s office in Seattle and aspires to go into environmental studies and Spanish.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. paola @ Pickaweb permalink
    August 24, 2011

    good to know that school programs now involve recycling and other environmental awareness. This is what most of schools focus on as their activities.


  2. seema permalink
    August 24, 2011


  3. LoomDog permalink
    September 9, 2011

    Nice job Tess! As a previous award winner, I recognize the importance of not only your team’s efforts but garnering national recognition (no easy task!). At the risk of sounding like a dork I just want to say, “YOU GO GIRL!” If we could just harness the energy of people like you and Cort (and the rest of the team) we’d be able to stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow! “Imagine a world where people cared about the Earth as much as they care about who they believe created it.”

  4. sean permalink
    July 9, 2013

    Great story! I love to see schools taking the lead in this kind of green program. The young folks have a clue, they just need options to focus their energies.

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