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Polson middle, high schools earn Montana SMART Schools Recycling awards

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POLSON – The Polson Middle and High schools were recently awarded for being 2018-19 Montana SMART School Recycling Challenge champions. 

The Montana SMART School Challenge, now in its fifth year, challenges schools across Montana to compete amongst each other to see who can save the most money and resources by improving energy efficiency, recycling waste, and implementing green practices that promote a healthier environment.

Montana’s Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney on Monday, May 13, recognized both middle and high schools in separate ceremonies by presenting each program with a certificate from the Governor’s office along with a SMART Schools banner and a check for $1,000.

Out of the more than 50 Montana K-12 public schools that participated in the challenge, only 13 schools received awards for their conservation strategies and efforts. 

Cooney spoke to the high school students: “You’re young but don’t think you are too young to not be able to make a difference or have an impact because that is what you are doing.”

By implementing a recyclable bins program throughout the halls and classrooms of the school, Polson High School students have successfully reclaimed and redirected recyclable materials that were headed to the landfill.

According to the Montana SMART Schools Challenge website, participating schools have saved nearly $200,000 in energy costs and diverted more than 40 tons of waste from local landfills, which is equivalent to 247 cars not being driven for a year.

The Polson Middle School alone saved eight tons of recyclable paper, plastic, cardboard and metals from making it into the landfill. “That’s a pretty amazing figure of recyclable items saved from going into the regular garbage,” said Amy Williams, school garden coordinator and special services teacher at Polson Middle School. “Because we have been doing an awesome job of sorting everything, it all went to the recycling center without it being rejected or turned away.”

The middle school has composted 1,600 pounds of lunchroom waste that would have gone into the trash. The compost has supplied food and energy for the school’s garden project.

“What you have been doing through your recycling, water conservation, composting and gardening is so very important,” Cooney told a group of students, school faculty and parents gathered in the middle school library.

After a brief presentation of the check and banner, the students led Cooney on a walking tour of the school’s garden. Cooney helped plant bitterroot in the garden during a ceremony.




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