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The Zero Waste Schools Program

In 2015, Zero Waste Marin worked with two schools on a pilot program to help schools reduce landfill waste by adding in recycling and composting. Since then, the program has grown and now serves nearly 40 public school sites across Marin County. Our goal is to empower schools, students, and staff to reduce landfill waste and comply with mandatory state waste laws by implementing sustainable recycling and composting programs.

To support 40+ campuses across the County, Zero Waste Marin works with a contractor to increase the amount of on-site education and support provided to enrolled schools. Our contract partner for the Schools Program is Marin-based non-profit Strategic Energy Innovations (SEI). 

What is the Zero Waste Schools Program?

A student empties recycling into the blue cart at Bahia Elementary, a Zero Waste School

For each school site enrolled in our program, Zero Waste Marin will provide zero waste training, indoor and outdoor recycling and compost containers, custodial carts, stickers and signage, and Green Team incentives, all at no charge to the school. We can also help you facilitate a tour of Marin Sanitary Service or Redwood Landfill where you can see first-hand how your materials are sorted. This program helps our schools and Marin County residents save valuable resources and provide lifelong lessons to students.

At the end of each program year, each enrolled school site is evaluated under the Zero Waste Schools Program Certification. The certification process is tiered into Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels to allow schools to continue to strive for progress. Schools that pass the certification process are honored with a recycled glass plaque. All enrolled schools are re-evaluated each year. View a PDF example of the Certification criteria here. (pdf) (171KB). 

How does the program work?

Download the Zero Waste Schools Overview of Program Elements, which explains the different phases of our program and the mandatory state waste laws that our program will help you comply with.


Meeting with main stakeholders to explain program, review current
campus system, and plan next steps.

PRE-PROGRAM WASTE AUDIT Work with custodian to identify main waste-generating areas and conduct an audit of trash, recycling, and compost bins.

Present waste audit results at a staff meeting, and review program
rollout with all staff.


Ensure teachers, custodian, lunchtime staff, and paraprofessionals are all trained on sorting and new program systems.


At an assembly, introduce students to the program. Return to
go to each classroom for a more in-depth training, and to set up
the new color-coded classroom bins.


Deliver classroom bins, bathroom Slim Jims, staff room bins, and
waste stations, as applicable.


Start or continue a Green Team of students that will support lunchtime
sorting and create posters, videos, and educational materials to remind
peers of zero waste.


Conduct a new waste audit and compare data. Complete a Certification
checklist and determine if trash service levels can be decreased.

What about private schools?

Zero Waste Marin offers direct support to private schools to comply with State waste laws. Support from Zero Waste Marin staff includes a site visit to assess opportunities for improvement, education and training, an assembly, and guidance on compliance with recycling and composting requirements. Private schools may also be certified under our Zero Waste Schools Program Certification upon request. 

Contact the Zero Waste Marin team to learn more, and read the document to the right to learn more about support offerings available to private schools. 

Private School Support Offerings (pdf)

A Day at a Zero Waste School

Introducing young people to zero waste behavior is a great way to install good habits that last a lifetime. See how the students, staff, faculty and administration of Bahia Vista Elementary in San Rafael work together to become a Zero Waste School.

How does my school join?

Zero Waste Marin Schools Program Logo
Each school year Zero Waste Marin aims to enroll 4 – 5 new schools. If you are a public school interested in working with us, please fill out the form below.

Schools Program Information Request