SMART Schools

Bill Pedersen, SMART Schools Coordinator, holds up bags of garbage that symbolize the four to five pounds of garbage the average American produces daily, at an all-school assembly at Central-Linc Elementary School on Wednesday.

The fact that T-shirts can be made out of recycled plastic bottles is pretty astonishing to some elementary students.

Even crazier? Paper made from elephant poop.

“That just shows you what we can do,” Bill Pedersen, SMART schools coordinator, told the Central-Linc students as they sat gathered in the school’s gym on Wednesday.

The assembly announced to students Central-Linc’s participation in the SMART schools initiative and a challenge that could garner $1,000 for the school. 

SMART — Saving Money and Resources Today — Schools are those that “commit to promoting energy efficiency, waste reduction and health,” according to the program’s website.

The initiative was launched at the beginning of this school year by the office of Gov. Steve Bullock. One of the goals is for schools to save money that can be invested into educational resources.

As an incentive, SMART schools has three categories of challenges: Energy Challenge, Recycling Challenge and Green Schools Challenge.

Central-Linc Principal Vanessa Nasset said the school will be taking the green challenge between Wednesday of this week and March 30.

“I think we get so caught up with all the academic pieces of education and test scores and data and we tend to forget about creating well-rounded citizens — the whole child. I think this is a really good opportunity to create a sense of stewardship and citizenship in our kids,” Nasset said.

The school has a committee that includes Nasset, several teachers, a counselor and a Helena Recycling representative who will be overseeing much of the effort. Nasset said classrooms will be stocked with “green” cleaning products, the recycling program will be bolstered and the school may plant native greenery in the school yard.

On Wednesday, Pedersen was at Central-Linc to help students understand what recycling was and why they might want to throw their bottles in the recycling bin instead of the trash can.

The average American, Pedersen said, produces roughly four to five pounds of trash each day.

He said according to Greenwaste.com, 70 percent of trash can be recycled.

Pedersen said using a permanent water bottle or using a jam container for storing items are ways to cut back on that trash accumulation.

“Be creative, have fun with it and try to find ways for all of us to produce less trash,” he told the students.

After Pedersen’s talk, Nasset asked students what they could do to make Central-Linc better. One girl suggested composting. Another suggested turning off the water after washing hands.

John Hilton, a Central-Linc parent and owner of Helena Recycling, provides free recycling to his childrens’ school. Hilton said most schools in Helena have a sponsor that pays for their recycling and because his children attend Central-Linc he decided to sponsor that school.

“I think that’s where it starts, is with the kids,” Hilton said about the importance of students recycling.

The principals of Capital High School and Helena High School said those student populations are also planning on participating in the SMART Schools initiative.

By participating in one of the challenges a school is eligible for a $1,000 prize.

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Alexander Deedy can be reached at 447-4081 or alexander.deedy@helenair.com


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