In the fall of 2014, Hough began formally working toward sustainability goals. Many wonderful teacher-led and parent-led initiatives preceded this date. Hough's principal, faculty, staff, students, PTO and parent community have all been very supportive of working toward these goals at Hough.
In the spring of 2015, Hough's PTO voted to create an Environmental Awareness Committee (EAC). The chairperson's role was made an executive position, to ensure that it is filled on an ongoing basis. The committee began work in the 2015-2016 school year.
In the fall of 2015, we revised the waste sorting process in the Hough cafeteria to include recycling, Trex
collection and TerraCycle
collection. Trex allows us to recycle plastic bags, which are not accepted in traditional recycling. TerraCycle allows us to keep squeeze pouches (3,846 so far) and juice pouches (13,632 so far) out of the landfill via upcycling. Students also learned to pour out their liquids prior to recycling their containers. Liquids are processed much more efficiently in wastewater treatment plants than in landfills. Many parent volunteers and the support of the cafeteria staff contributed to the success of this new system.
In 2015, the Hough PTO voted to install two water bottle refill stations, encouraging students to bring reusable water bottles and to stay hydrated.
In the fall of 2015, Hough began celebrating Waste Free Wednesdays, when students worked to minimize their waste as much as possible. We also sorted our food scraps on these days, which showed how much of our cafeteria waste was comprised of food scraps - nearly 50%.
In October of 2015, Hough applied for and was awarded the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) Large Scope Waste Grant. This $1,500 grant enabled Hough to purchase a new stainless steel sorting station, a condiment pump dispenser and clear bins for our Trex and TerraCycle collections. The sorting station and bins have made sorting very clear and easy, and the pump means that we have eliminated ketchup and mustard packets from our lunchroom.
In the winter of 2015, Hough students began collecting plastic bottle caps and bringing them to school. We collected and sorted thousands of colorful bottle caps! The bottle caps would have a new life as materials for a bottle cap mural. Students, together with art teacher Tom Root, designed a mural with the theme "Our Blue Ribbon School Goes Green." Students and parent volunteers painted the mural as a guide, and then worked together to glue and drill the bottle caps into place. The finished product hangs proudly in the Hough hallway that students pass each morning, and serves as a reminder of Hough's efforts to be kind to the environment.
In the winter of 2015, Hough's Green Club had its inaugural meeting. Cheryl Marback and Mila Allen guided students through explorations of vermicomposting, aquaponics and other sustainability topics. This year, students are getting ready to begin on-site composting!
In April, 2016, Hough launched the district's first food scrap composting pilot, in cooperation with Groot Industries. Students learned to sort their food scraps on a daily basis, and in doing so saved an average of 150 lbs. of food waste from the landfill each week. The pilot was so successful that Hough students are now the first to compost their food scraps on an ongoing basis.