2021 Waste Reduction Student Scholarships


Student Scholarships

RecycleSmart, in partnership with Mt. Diablo Recycling has created Waste Reduction Student Scholarships for students attending a public high school in our service area. We will award college scholarships of up to $4000 to up to four high school seniors every year. If you have implemented a waste reduction program or have made significant contributions to reducing waste at your school, this scholarship is for you! Just describe your project and how it has reduced waste at your school. For questions, please contact Ruth Abbe at (415) 235-1356 or ruth.abbe@abbeassociates.com. 

Congratulations to these five outstanding students! Each of them earned a Waste Reduction Student Scholarship this year! Each year, RecycleSmart awards scholarships to several high school students who made real change and reduced waste at their schools. This year’s scholarship winners are:

Alexandra (Lexi) Sofield (Left)

Acalanes High School

For Lexi, waste reduction means using less waste, properly sorting and reusing things so they don’t go into the landfill. Focusing on waste reduction as a leader on the Environmental Board at Acalanes High School fostered a greater appreciation for her choices as a buyer and her impact on the market, her household and school community. As she prepares for college in Oklahoma, she realizes she’ll have a new frontier to influence, a campus where sorting is not the norm.

Serving on the Enviro Board for two years, Lexi took on a managerial role as a senior and helped develop four students as leaders for their school and our environment. During her junior year the Enviro Board focused on fixing sort signs on the bins around campus and co-locating the bins into stations. Educating the students was more passive with a reliance on signs to do the work. This all changed in March 2020, and upon reflection Lexi notes the Enviro Board’s development of creative ways to educate the student body on the importance of waste reduction will be more impactful on diversion rates in the future.

Education was first and foremost in 2020-21. The Enviro Board focused on introducing students to new ideas, and Lexi expects waste diversion to improve when students return to school full-time. There was more time to address questions of: why should I care, what is a landfill, how to sort properly and make a change. Lexi thinks Acalanes students know more now, which is better than just putting up signs around campus.

It was a challenge throughout the year to get students to opt-in to anything besides required classes. Nevertheless, the Enviro Board posted multiple lessons on Instagram (@acalanes_enviro) regarding recycling, composting, reusables, gardening, food waste and climate change. Additionally, they reached out to their student body in an effort to connect with virtual dialogues and contests. They had 199 followers this year.

At the beginning of 2020-21, her board had high hopes to reduce waste on campus by removing plastics from the vending machine, evolving to greener cleaning products with less single-use items, educating the student body through social media and concluding the year with an on-campus Earth Week in April.

Earth Week evolved into a virtual Earth Month. The board created activities, trivia games using Kahoo! and presentations on environmental policies and racism. Additionally, they hosted presentations from environmental clubs and companies including: RecycleSmart, Save the Frogs, One Tree Planted, Costa Sunglasses, and Save the Bay. During the final week they conducted a litter clean up challenge between grades using Litterati. The freshmen class won and were rewarded Homecoming points. The Enviro Board promoted Earth Month through the Acalanes campus-wide Canvas platform and school Instagram with 1,400 followers, and were pleased with the student participation considering this challenging year.

Lexi is a resident of Lafayette and will be studying Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Chloe Dawkins (Center Left)

Campolindo High School

Chloe believes waste reduction is our responsibility, as humans, because we are the ones damaging our environment and there are connecting factors to everything we do.

Current president and co-founder of the Zero Waste Club at Campolindo High School, Chloe and a friend started the club as juniors to reduce plastic waste at school and in their community. They first educated themselves by attending a Zero Waste Seminar to learn how large corporations were reducing plastic waste, working at the annual Lafayette Art and Wine Festival to get familiar with the recycling at an outdoor community event, and attending other environmental club meetings at school to align efforts.

As a Zero Waste Club they focused on creating opportunities for students to learn about zero waste lifestyles and how to reduce plastic waste on campus. They hosted bulk shopping clinics at Whole Foods after school for students to provide instruction on how to shop without creating plastic waste. Students were instructed to bring reusable containers and tare weight at the store before selecting a drygoods bulk item or something from the salad bar.

They demonstrated using reusable bags for produce and metal trays for lunch. Participants enjoyed “tare weight shopping” and they felt like they were making a difference while having fun. 

During the 2019-20 year, Chloe also helped teach Glorietta Elementary School students about the harmful effects of plastic on our environment. And, for Campolindo the Zero Waste Club created a petition to eliminate plastic utensils and worked with the administration on a budget for a reusable and compostable fork pilot program. Posting their idea on NextDoor generated a sizable collection of donated metal forks, and a GoFundMe campaign resulted in $600. The Zero Waste Club hoped the Campolindo food service team could wash forks used near the cafeteria, and offer a compostable fork option for students eating on the go. It was more challenging than the club realized to make such a shift. In the meantime, they stored the forks in their lockers, passing them out to interested students. Additionally, they hosted a DIY session on creating a pouch to keep a reusable fork in a backpack.

As the 2020-21 year started out with distance learning, Chloe and the Zero Waste Club continued to focus on alternatives to plastic and shared knowledge on switching to bar shampoo and shopping at stores like Fill Good for waste-free shopping. They also promoted virtual meetings on @campozerowaste (94 followers).

Finally connecting to the RecycleSmart Schools Team in February, the club hosted a meeting for students to learn how to sort properly and made plans to resume the fork project. A meeting with the new food services manager for Acalanes School District is scheduled for May, and Chloe plans to document the fork project history to pass on to the next student zero waste champion.

Chloe is a resident of Lafayette and will be studying Business at the University of Oregon.

Alyssa Levy (Center Right)

Campolindo High School

Whenever Alyssa eats, consumes and purchases, she is aware of the potential impact of her choices. She thinks of waste reduction as a method to leave the least possible impression of your existence on the environment.

As the 2020-21 Campolindo Commissioner of Sustainability for her Leadership class, an AP Environmental student, member of multiple environmental clubs (Campolindo Environmental Club, Global Action Club, Fashion X, Sustainability Club), and a RecycleSmart Intern, she joined forces with other students to promote sustainability around her campus and the Acalanes School District during a unique school year of distance and hybrid learning.Waste reduction awareness took the form of making sure information was available and in her words “in-your-face” for students. Whether it was advertising a zoom earth summit over social media @campo.environmental (186 followers) or putting announcements at the top of Canvas (Campo’s online learning platform) for the whole student body to see, visibility and awareness was key this school year.

Rather than measuring waste diversion for Campolindo, the bigger aspect in Alyssa’s leadership role was her position to consistently post information about environmental issues, events and education. One positive result brought students into the Campolindo Garden to compost, plant, and grow food throughout the year. During one of these garden events goats came into the garden and the students learned all about the minimal carbon footprints of these helpful animals.

As a RecycleSmart Intern from February to June of 2021, Alyssa was part of a team of seven students from four different Central Contra Costa County high schools. This team quickly organized and hosted a Virtual Earth Summit on April 23, 2021 for over 25 students from multiple high schools. During the Summit, Alyssa shared her action to educate the Campolindo student body during Earth Week with modules on famous environmentalists, and made a presentation to encourage action to decrease your carbon footprint.

Alyssa is a resident of Moraga and will be studying at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan in the fall.

Allison (Ally) Hughes (Right)

Monte Vista High School

Ally credits her parents for seeding her environmental awareness as a child; however, she was the one responsible for educating and motivating her family of seven to recycle, compost and reduce their use of plastics. With a newfound joy and sense of purpose from making her homelife more sustainable, Ally and a friend founded Protecting Our Oceans at Monte Vista High School in 2019. Their club started strong with over 50 students joining the meetings! Their focus was to educate their school community about the issues plaguing our world, and to make a change on campus. They initially organized beach cleanups and drives to eliminate single use plastic. Currently, Protecting Our Oceans is a part of the Tri-Valley environmental connection program.

In January of 2020, Ally and her club started to address the lack of composting and recycling at Monte Vista. They first met with their principal to discuss their concern, and highlighted the fact that meal service at Monte Vista for one day is roughly equivalent to the amount of waste generated by a family of four in one year! A visit to Green Valley Elementary School to observe their composting system also inspired the club to implement a waste diversion program at Monte Vista.

After a pandemic-induced pause, Ally and her co-lead reached out to the RecycleSmart Schools Team, as recommended by their principal, in order to establish the necessary infrastructure for recycling and composting at Monte Vista. Ally arranged an outdoor campus assessment in early February 2021, which included the head custodian, another custodial staff member, and the RecycleSmart Schools Team. Plans were jointly discussed to remove some outdoor landfill bins and create three-bin stations all over campus. The head custodian later shared the bin/signage needs for classrooms and bathrooms, bringing the total count to 55 new compost and recycle bins and 48 sign sets.  

The RecycleSmart Schools Team also assisted in communicating with the district facilities director and Republic Services to establish the hauling procedure to accommodate this major waste reduction plan. Additionally, Ally and Nancy Deming met with the Monte Vista Food Service Manager to strategically place bins in the kitchens for sorting. The RecycleSmart Schools Team will also train the entire custodial staff before the fall 2021.

While waiting for the bins, signage, liners and hauler logistics, Ally and Protecting Our Oceans have begun to educate the student body of 3,000. The club has held informational meetings on sorting and they expect an article in the school newspaper this month. Ally and her club will set up the bins and signage before the end of the year, and she feels the clear signage and bin placement will make a huge initial impact. Nonetheless, she acknowledges the need for continued guidance and is confident about passing the responsibility to a prosperous club with motivated leaders to continue to educate and enact change regarding waste reduction at Monte Vista.

Ally is a resident of Danville and will be studying Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University in the fall.