Our Blogs‎ > ‎

Sustainable Schools Blog


The Sustainable Schools program helps students of all ages protect our ecosystem and live sustainably. We provide hands-on education on waste prevention, water conservation, energy efficiency and climate change for all grade levels. Read more.

  • Teaching STEM streamside and in the Classroom By Andrea ReiterAfter completing the Young Water Stewards program in my 15th classroom this year, a Ferndale High School student asked me what my favorite part about teaching this ...
    Posted Jun 7, 2018, 10:42 AM by Hannah Coughlin
  • Upcycled: Art and science students find creative uses for waste By Sasha Savoian, Education SpecialistWhat can you make from materials otherwise destined for the landfill? Sustainable Schools new waste prevention workshop, Upcycled, allows middle and high schools students in ...
    Posted Apr 10, 2018, 4:55 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Green Classrooms programs updated, using your input! By Isis Gamble, Green Classroom Coordinator (AmeriCorps)Teachers—we hear you! Thanks to your awesome feedback on our Green Classrooms program, we have been able to update all three lessons ...
    Posted Apr 10, 2018, 3:56 PM by Simon Bakke
  • Sustainable Schools: clean water education in Whatcom County Stormwater runoff is Washington’s biggest source of pollution.  Stormwater can contain bacteria, trash, oil, toxic chemicals, viruses, dirt, and many other pollutants; collectively called non-point source pollution. When ...
    Posted Dec 6, 2017, 2:00 PM by Hannah Coughlin
  • 21st Century Kids Take On a 21st Century Problem: Non-Point Source Pollution by Andrea Reiter, Education Specialist, Sustainable Schools Program Do you know what non-point source pollution is? How about the effects of non-point source pollution has on water quality ...
    Posted Aug 3, 2017, 12:49 PM by Hannah Coughlin
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 18. View more »

Teaching STEM streamside and in the Classroom

posted Jun 7, 2018, 10:42 AM by Hannah Coughlin

By Andrea Reiter

After completing the Young Water Stewards program in my 15th classroom this year, a Ferndale High School student asked me what my favorite part about teaching this program was. With no hesitation I told the class that my favorite part is taking students to the creek to collect scientific data. 


There has been a big push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the k-12 school system, the Young Water Stewards program combines all the components of STEM in the multi-day program. STEM is woven into the program through collecting stream-side water quality data, discussing how engineers design Best Management Practices to keep water clean, mathematics as the students analyse the water quality data they collected and compare it to historical data, and technology when we talk about applied science and future careers in the field of water science.


Every time students put on goggles and gloves and begin to test water quality I hear “I feel like a real scientist!” To which I reply, “You are a real scientist!”.

During their water quality testing in the field, students collect data on dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, turbidity, and fecal coliform bacteria. When back in the classroom we stress the importance of multiple points of data over a period of time to create trends, human error in collecting data, and scale of the data we are collecting (if your measurement tool only reads to whole numbers, you cannot guess a half number eg. pH reads in between 7 and 7.5 on the test kit, we will record 7-7.5 rather than 7.25).

Unlike the scientific experiments students do in the classroom where the teacher knows what the results are, students in the Young Water Stewards program are doing applied science. Applied Science is when you take scientific processes and use them in the field to collect data. When we go to test water quality of a given creek, I don’t know what the pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, or turbidity will be; we are all completing the study together. 

Back in the classroom while analyzing the results, students begin to theorize why a water quality parameter might be off. In the case of Schell Creek in Ferndale, some students collected a range of 5-
7 ppm for dissolved oxygen 
before the creek flows through a culvert (underground pipe) that goes under downtown Ferndale and then another class got 1.5-3 ppm downstream of the culvert. I asked the students why they think the dissolved oxygen might be lower downstream of the culvert and they came up with theories that included: there were no aquatic plants growing the the culvert because there is no sunlight, and the lack of contact with the atmosphere while the water was in the pipe might have caused the dissolved oxygen to decrease.

My biggest goal in teaching students about human land uses, non-point source pollution, and water quality issues is that they will begin to see the world around them differently. That they will begin to think more like scientists, ask questions, and make hypothesis about how we use the land and the implications that has on water quality. 

Learn more about the Young Water Stewards program, or sign your students up!


Upcycled: Art and science students find creative uses for waste

posted Apr 10, 2018, 4:22 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 4:55 PM ]

By Sasha Savoian, Education Specialist

What can you make from materials otherwise destined for the landfill? Sustainable Schools new waste prevention workshop, Upcycled, allows middle and high schools students in Whatcom County to creatively explore waste diversion by reusing discarded materials in a project. “Reusing” is one of the 4 R’s of waste prevention: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.

The average American produces 4.5 pounds of waste per day. Before the creative process can begin, students learn the fate of Whatcom County’s waste – two landfills near the Columbia River, about 400 miles away – and the impacts landfills have on the environment and on communities. Once an item is thrown into a landfill, it gets buried, and the lack of oxygen chokes out the decomposition process and produces methane gas. Students try to guess the amount of time it takes for certain items to break down completely once buried in a landfill. Aluminum can? 200-400 years. Plastic jug? 1 million years to forever.

After participating in the Upcycled workshop, Shuksan Middle School, 6th & 7th grade art students will create projects made from textiles and used bike tubes. Roughly 3.8 billion pounds of textiles are added to landfills in America every year and using fabrics in art pieces is one way to reduce this number. Students brainstorm other ideas such as having a clothing swap or donating any textiles they don’t want anymore to thrift stores. 

Lynden Christian High School students are researching artists of the world who implement discarded materials in art pieces to inspire their own creation made from items found around their homes.  Artists make anything from garden trinkets, to sculptures made from plastics found on beaches, to art installations in neighborhoods. 

Environmental science students and art students at Options High School are collaborating on the creation of upcycled projects. Each art student will make masks with found objects, and the science students will research an issue of their choosing related to waste. Once the research is completed, classes will work together to make a sculpture that teaches people about the issue.

Plastics have contaminated just about everywhere in the environment, especially in our oceans. Students learn about the five main ocean gyres – large-scale currents where plastics collect, some the size of Texas. China is no longer accepting our plastics, rapidly filling up recycling centers until they are finally shipped to landfills instead. Students brainstorm ways we can reduce the amount of plastic we use and suggest reusing and recycling. What projects can we create from used plastic?

Upcycled is one of four waste prevention workshops offered to middle and high school students in Whatcom County by Sustainable Schools. Check out the website for more information. 

Green Classrooms programs updated, using your input!

posted Apr 10, 2018, 3:56 PM by Simon Bakke   [ updated Apr 10, 2018, 3:56 PM ]

By Isis Gamble, Green Classroom Coordinator (AmeriCorps)

Teachers—we hear you! Thanks to your awesome feedback on our Green Classrooms program, we have been able to update all three lessons to fit your classroom needs and better align with Next Generation Science Standards. The three Green Classroom programs are Waste PreventionEnergy Efficiency & Climate Change, and Water Conservation. Learn more about the curricula here.

The Sustainable Schools team here at RE Sources has been busy reviewing and updating the lessons. Our water conservation lesson is now more hands-on with more opportunities for visual learners, our waste prevention lesson now offers a deeper dive into concepts of reduction, and our energy efficiency lesson has incorporated new team-building excises through small group discussions. 

So far in the 2017-18 school year, 12 classes have participated in the energy efficiency program, 23 classes have participated in the water conservation program, and 35 classes have participated in the waste prevention program. It’s not too late to sign up for one of the three programs we offer and join the classrooms in Whatcom County taking the next step towards sustainability.

Spring is in full bloom which makes outdoor learning opportunities even more abundant. Join us in learning about our environment and sustainability in a meaningful, hands-on, and local way. Be the first to try out our newly updated lesson plans and action projects! 

Green Classrooms in action

Thirza Zagelow’s 5th grade class at Cascadia Elementary and Shannon Sampson’s 5th grade class at Columbia Elementary School have both completed all three of the Green Classrooms programs.

Each class did unique action projects, including making notebooks with recycled art covers, creating comic books to educate others about energy efficiency, and making droplet-shaped reminders water-saving reminders. Both classes had six one hour-long in-class visits and will be pilot groups for a new Healthy Communities project we are rolling out. Congrats to both classes for being champions of sustainability at their school! 



Sustainable Schools: clean water education in Whatcom County

posted Dec 6, 2017, 1:54 PM by Hannah Coughlin   [ updated Dec 6, 2017, 2:00 PM ]


Stormwater runoff is Washington’s biggest source of pollution.  Stormwater can contain bacteria, trash, oil, toxic chemicals, viruses, dirt, and many other pollutants; collectively called non-point source pollution. When stormwater enters a storm drain, it does not get filtered but is piped to the nearest waterway, carrying with it lots of pollution.  This fall, students from three schools in Whatcom County hosted Sustainable Schools programs to learn about local water quality issues and to take action. 


At Shuksan Middle School in Bellingham, all 6th grade science students learned about pollution in stormwater and modeled how pollution moves through a watershed from land to the water through Sustainable Schools Stormwater Education. In the week(s) prior to our visit, , students were introduced to waterquality issues and how humans can impact water quality aboard the Snow Goose. The Sustainable Schools team then completed a follow-up lesson at school focusing on their local watershed: Squalicum Creek. Students then put their learning into action.  In an effort to decrease non-point source pollution, AVID students installed a dog bag dispenser station at the entrance to their soccer field to encourage pet-owners to pick up dog poop when utilizing the field and assembled new dog owner kits to educate City of Bellingham residents about the importance of picking up after their dog. The kits were then given to the Whatcom Humane Society to hand out alongside adopted dogs. 


All 9th grade science Students at Blaine High School completed a five-day Young Water Stewards program. The students learned about how human’s everyday activities can contribute to non-point source pollution in the watershed. They learned how this pollution is then carried into Cain Creek (their nearby waterway) through stormwater runoff. The students tested water quality analyzed their results and compared it to historic data. After discussing how Best Management Practices can be implemented to reduce pollution, students  completed a stewardship project where they removed three truckloads of invasive species and approximately 30 pounds of trash!,  Twelve trees were then planted and three yards of mulch was spread in an effort to reduce the amount of suspended sediments polluting the water. 



Nooksack Valley High School, part of the Everson School District, asked Sustainable Schools to offer the Young Water Stewards Program as an elective. Once a week for eight weeks, students are participating in the program which is highlighting rural land-uses that are contributing to non-point source pollution and utilizing the Sumas River as the case study. Students are half way through the program and will complete their learning by designing and implementing an action project in January that will help mitigate the pollutant they determine to be the biggest contribution to non-point source pollution in the Sumas River. 

Students from all three schools are doing their part to help clean up our water. You can too! Keeping non-point source pollution out of our water is easy:
  • Scoop the poop. Pick up pet waste daily or often to keep bacteria, viruses, and excess nutrients out of the water.
  • Wash your car at an Industrial car wash. Soap contains surfactants and chemicals, if washing at home, that soapy water will find its way into the nearby water. Industrial car washes send the used water to a waste water treatment plant that can properly remove chemicals.
  • Don’t drip and drive. Ensure your car is not leaking, and if it is take it to a mechanic to stop the leak. Annually, Americans drip over 180 million gallons of oil much of which finds its way into our water!
  • Avoid fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. These run off your lawn, garden, roof and driveway the next time it rains. 
    • The presence of herbicides and pesticides in the water can result in death of aquatic plants and animals including salmon. 
    • When excess nutrients (any fertilizer added to the ecosystem causes an “overload”) enters the water, it promotes algae growth, algae have a short life and within the same season will bloom and then die. During the decaying process, dissolved oxygen is consumed resulting in extremely low dissolved oxygen levels creating “dead zones.”
If you are associated with a school and would like to host Sustainable Schools to teach about water or waste, contact us at schools@re-sources.org.


21st Century Kids Take On a 21st Century Problem: Non-Point Source Pollution

posted Aug 3, 2017, 12:48 PM by Hannah Coughlin   [ updated Aug 3, 2017, 12:49 PM ]

by Andrea Reiter, Education Specialist, Sustainable Schools Program 

Do you know what non-point source pollution is? How about the effects of non-point source pollution has on water quality? Or that we all are contributing to the problem? La Venture and Mount Baker Middle School students can now help you not only answer these questions having become Young Water Stewards of the Nookachamps Creek and Skagit River. Throughout June and July, 24 Skagit Valley kids studied the Nookachamps Creek watershed and the impacts of non-point source pollution on the health of their stream through RE Sources’ Young Water Stewards Program. In a five-week course, students learned why non-point source pollution is a problem for water quality and the role we all play in non-point source pollution within our watershed. 

The program started out with an insight into the problem – non-point source pollution is being carried into our waterways through surface runoff. NOAA Education Coordinator, Casey Ralston, attended the program one day to show the impacts on aquatic life when exposed to surface runoff that is contaminated with non-point source pollution; NOAA scientists in Seattle exposed salmon to runoff water and 100% of salmon exposed died within 24 hours. In addition to the presence of pollution within our watershed, humans have changed the functionality of the watershed through the increase of impervious surfaces in the form of roads, houses, sports fields, and parking lots. These impervious surfaces do not allow water to infiltrate the soil, instead that water is forced to go into storm drains. The city of Mount Vernon alone has over 5,000 storm drains.

After the students learned about the problem of non-point source pollution affecting the health of our watershed, we set off to test the water quality of the Nookachamps Creek. Through field laboratory kits, students tested the dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, temperature, and the presence of fecal coliform bacteria. When asked what her favorite part of the 5-week program was; Mykila, a Boys & Girls participant stated: "when we went and tested water because it was fun and helped me learn". Half of a day in the field and three test sights later, students discovered that currently the biggest problem with the Nookachamps Creek is temperature and the presence of fecal coliform bacteria.

The following week, we discussed our water quality testing results and introduced the concept of Best Management Practices. Students discussed ways they and other residents of their watershed can reduce the non-point source pollutants in the water. To leave these kids with a sense of empowerment and the ability to solve problems within their community, we completed a few stewardship projects. Students labeled storm drains at La Venture Middle School, the school that the majority of the students will be attending in the fall, picked up trash on a Skagit Land Trust property, mulched native plants, and removed invasive species in a riparian zone along the Nookachamps Creek. "One fact I want to share with others (is) if you see a tree/baby plant put dirt or wood chips around it, so it can grow." Carmella, a Boys & Girls participant, stated during a reflection of our stewardship day.

Originally developed for high school students, the Young Water Stewards curriculum was adapted to middle school level and enhanced with more hands-on activities to engage a summer audience participating in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) summer enhancement program at a 21st Century Community Learning Classroom (21st CCLC) site. 21st CCLC are a nation-wide campaign to provide education and support during non-school hours for children in high poverty and/or low performing school districts. Through a National Marine Sanctuary Foundation grant, RE Sources was able to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Skagit County (the 21st CCLC Host), NOAA, and the Skagit Land Trust to offer a meaningful watershed educational experience to youth.

Stats:
  • 24 middle school students from Mount Baker and La Venture Middle School in Mount Vernon, WA 
  • 3 Nookachamps Creeks & tributary sites tested for water quality including temperature, turbidity, fecal coliform bacteria, pH, and dissolved oxygen 
  • Storm drains labeled on La Venture Middle School’s campus directly in front of the Boys & Girls Club Clubhouse 
  • 14 hours of watershed education and stewardship for each participant

Blaine High School students study their local watershed, tour salmon stream as part of Young Water Stewards

posted Jul 12, 2017, 11:11 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Jul 12, 2017, 11:11 AM ]

The Sustainable Schools and Clean Water programs at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities joined forces in 2016 to launch Young Water Stewards for high school students in rural Whatcom County, helping them develop an understanding of their local watersheds and how to be a steward of clean water. 

This spring, almost 200 high school students from Blaine participated in the Young Water Stewards training. Students learned how watersheds function through an interactive watershed model, learned how to conduct water quality testing, toured their local watershed to learn about different types of pollution, learned tips for how to protect the health of their local watershed, and took part in a stewardship project. 


Field notes from the North Sound Baykeeper

By Lee FirstNorth Sound Baykeeper


Spending 5 full days — with 7 classes per day — with Blaine High School students during the last week of their school year was not something I knew how to prepare for. I know a lot about the watersheds and pollution issues in Whatcom County — but working with 200 students during the last week of school? I let our Sustainable Schools staff figure out the details, and went along for the ride. 


We started the Young Water Stewards program by asking each student to fill out survey telling us what they knew about watersheds, and asking them to draw a watershed. Almost all of them drew a small building, sometimes next to water or with a tap. After a quick discussion about what a watershed ACTUALLY is, we split each class into two groups. Half of them stayed inside to listen to a presentation on watersheds, and other other half headed outside to build a watershed model. 

Building a watershed model

We built our watershed model with wadded up newspaper and a blue tarp plus plastic cars, homes, barns, factories, and animals. We crumpled up the newspaper in a pile, covered it with the blue tarp, then scattered the plastic pieces around the tarp to resemble farms and cities. Then, the fun part! We handed out containers of dirt, food coloring, glitter, and chocolate sprinkles, representing sediment, chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria, respectively. After the stuff was tossed about, we sprayed our model with water. 

This model is an effective way to showcase a watershed, especially in Whatcom County. The students were aware that most of the water in the Nooksack River starts from snow melt on glaciers on Mount Baker. But what they didn’t know was that the watershed where they lived was not part of the Nooksack watershed – it’s part of the Drayton Harbor watershed, and their subwatershed is Cain Creek. Most of them didn’t know that water carried pollutants from the land along with it.

It was a hot day, and the water bottles were a hit. Water sprayed on the high point turned into tributaries, slowing down in areas that represented wetlands. The chocolate sprinkles and glitter flowed downstream, some farm animals got their feet wet, and a lot of sprinkles, dirt and glitter (aka pollution) ended up downstream. 

Touring Cain Creek

The next day, we toured Cain Creek, a local salmon-bearing stream. The students loaded on the school bus, and I was the tour guide. Leaving the city of Blaine, we discussed what kind of pollutants were in stormwater and where the stormwater goes (answer: Cain Creek). 

We passed a few farms, talked about problems caused by improper manure management, and stopped the bus near the headwaters of Cain Creek. We discussed the importance of headwater wetlands, the interplay between surface water and groundwater, and alterations of the land that have led to the filling in of wetlands. 

On the way back, we stopped at an industrial facility and viewed a large parking lot that drains into a wetland. From this area, Cain Creek heads into giant pipes, crosses under the freeway, pops up a few times, and finally reappears near the Blaine Post Office. Here, we got off the bus, walked to the edge of a steep bank, and peered down into the creek. 

It was sad. Garbage was strewn about, the stream was a browning trickle, and two huge storm drains were located right above the creek. The kids were surprised. We’d talked a lot about how stormwater from all the types of land uses we’d seen from the bus ended up in pipes connected to the creek, without any treatment. What they saw opened their eyes. A few were upset by the garbage and the color of the water.

Testing water quality 

The next day we showed the kids how to test water for temperature, turbidity, and pH. We found a place to access the creek with a neglected sign that said "Cain Creek – Salmon Stream."  A few kids noticed the sign and commented that if more people could see it, they might care more about the creek. Right on!

Taking on stewardship of storm drains

The last day we helped the kids with a stewardship project. Since we’d placed a big emphasis on pollution from stormwater, we decided the stewardship project would be to label the 60 storm drains on the Blaine High school campus and some areas of the surround neighborhoods with storm drain markers. In all, we labeled close to 100 storm drains. Another group of students went down to the creek, picked up litter, and cleared vegetation away from the salmon sign for all to see. 

The students really got the message: at the end of the week, they understood what a watershed is, what stewardship means, why clean water is important, and some positive steps to prevent pollution. They understood that what we do on the land can have a detrimental impact to water quality downstream. And they learned a few steps they could take right in their own Cain Creek watershed to increase the health of the creek. 

In the final survey, the drawings of watersheds were totally different from the first day – they contained glaciers, tributaries, streams, rivers, wetlands, storm drains, parking lots, and more. It was an honor to spend the week with these students and their teachers. We are looking forward to taking this program to many more schools. Thank you, Blaine!

Where does your drinking water come from?

posted Jun 5, 2017, 10:42 AM by RE Sources Education   [ updated Jun 5, 2017, 12:34 PM by Hannah Coughlin ]

By Lindsey Gard

Would you want to drink groundwater that has been contaminated by dog poop? Me neither. Knowing what can contaminate our water supply, and where our water comes from is important for all of us to know.

I am serving with Washington Service Corps at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities in Bellingham, WA. I am the Green Classroom Coordinator on the Sustainable Schools team. I go into K-5th grade classrooms and give workshops on water conservation, waste prevention, and energy efficiency. I am working to protect the environment by giving elementary-aged kids the information they need to care for our planet's resources. 

I recently did a special program with Blaine Elementary Schools’ 4th graders. We focused on water conservation/waste prevention with an emphasis on groundwater. This program was done in collaboration with Birch Bay Water and Sewer District and The City of Blaine. 

Most, if not all of Blaine’s residents get their drinking water from groundwater aquifers. Aquifers act as reservoirs for groundwater, and feed wells and springs.

When I went into each of these classrooms and asked them where their drinking water came from, hardly any students knew. Many guessed it came from the sink. When I asked how it got to the sink, most guessed it came straight from the ocean. 

If we don’t know where our drinking water is coming from, how will we know how to protect it?

During the workshop the students got to make their own edible aquifer. The goal was to show students the geographical layers in a groundwater aquifer, and how water — and pollution — moves through it. 

Each student was supplied with a clear cup, straw, spoon, teddy grahams, fruit snack gummies, soda water and ice cream. When we got to the point of “digging our well” (the straw) the kids pumped up the “groundwater” (soda water) and got to witness how “pollution” (food coloring) moved through the aquifer and what happened to the groundwater level when it is pumped out by a well. We talked about all the different ways groundwater can become polluted: dog poop and other animal waste, pesticides, car oil, gas and heavy metals, and landfill liquid waste called, leachate.

After this exercise, they got it. Students got a hands-on picture of how water makes it to their tap, and how easy it is for that water source to become polluted. 

The students also participated in a school-wide poster contest for their Green Classrooms Action Project. The posters were hung in the cafeteria and judged by local dignitaries. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner all received an Alliance for Water Efficiency stainless steel water bottle, and the first place winner got a pizza party for their classroom! 
Many students committed to changing their behavior and committing to their ACT classroom pledge. ACT stands for Aware, Conserve, and Take Action. In that classroom, 95% of students had an increase in knowledge. This was just one of seven classrooms that completed the program.

My service in AmeriCorps at RE Sources has solidified my decision to continue working with youth in environmental education. Learning sustainability and how humans affect natural resources at a young age will only benefit our broader environment in the future.




11 Ways to be Water Wise – Water Conservation Tips For Your Everyday Life

posted May 30, 2017, 3:37 PM by Hannah Coughlin   [ updated May 30, 2017, 3:40 PM ]

Clean, bountiful water is one of the most important resources around the world. With the current world population reaching towards 7.4 billion people, our rapidly growing use of water for industry, agriculture, sanitation, and drinking has led to freshwater consumption tripling over the last 50 years.


With added considerations of seasonal variability and accessibility, water is often not where we need it when we need it. With less than 1% of the world’s water accessible to humans to drink, it’s a shame that pollution has made it so 1 in 10 people lack access to safe water.

No matter where you are in the world, you can do your part to conserve water by both saving water from being wasted and protecting water from becoming polluted.
  1. First, calculate the daily water use online or on paper for you or your household.
  2. Second, follow our tips below to get started on the water-wise path to conservation.
  3. Third, join us on January 18th from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm to clean up litter at Squalicum Beach Park in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  4. Lastly, get ready to celebrate UN World Water Day on March 22nd. Every year this event focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources - this year’s theme is “Water and Jobs”. Stay tuned for local events around Whatcom County in our upcoming newsletters.
In the Bathroom

  • Shorten your showers. The average person uses 17.2 gallons of water during their 8.2 minute shower, totaling over 6,000 gallons of water every year. You’ll save water, energy, and time when you shorten your shower to 5 minutes or less or skip out on a couple showers a week. Don’t think you could ever skimp out on your long, hot showers? Check out this list of other actionsyou can take that would save just  as much water as cutting out showers altogether.
  • Be frugal at the flusher and faucet. Update to a low-flow toilet if you haven’t already. Depending on how big of an upgrade you’re doing, consider investing in a compostingtoilet that requires no water. And  your faucet? Make sure to turn off the faucet when you scrub your hands with soap and brush your teeth. Install a faucet aerator to save even more water when the faucet is running.

If you live within the City of Bellingham, you can receive a free water conservation kit from the Finance Department in City Hall at 210 Lottie Street. The kits contain one low-flow showerhead, a kitchen and a bathroom faucet aerator, and toilet leak detection tablets.

In the Kitchen
  • Do the dishes. While the jury is still out on what conserves more water – using a dishwasher or washing dishes by hand – either situation can benefit from a few simple tips to save water. First off, thoroughly scrape your dishes into the compost right after eating to lessen the need for rinsing and running the garbage disposal. Secondly, use water only when you have a full load – whether it’s going to fill the sink or dishwasher, you might as well use it to clean as many dishes as possible.

    • Use the excess. Whether you just boiled a pot of pasta or you can’t finish a glass of water, the leftover water doesn’t need to go down the drain. Use the water for plants, animals, or cleaning.


    In the Yard

    • Embrace the gold. During the summer, stop watering your lawn and allow your grass to lay dormant. In Whatcom County, from June 1st – September 15th, it is recommended to stop watering your lawn. If you must water, make sure to practice smart lawn watering – make sure you’re not overwatering or losing water to evaporation. Especially within the City of Bellingham, where water demand doubles in the summer due largely in part to lawn and landscape watering, reducing the drinking water we use outdoors can have a huge savings.
    • Harvest the Rain. Use landscaping techniques to passively harvest rainwater for your outdoor space or actively collect and store rainwater to reduce your reliance on tapping into our drinking water resources for your outdoor water use. If you don’t have a use for collected rainwater, install a rain garden on your property to reduce the impacts of stormwater.
    • Use Nozzles and Cans. Rather than letting your hose run between uses, use a spray-control nozzle or watering can to get the exact amount of water you need every time with no waste. Take a hands-off approach and still save water when you use a soaker hose or install drip irrigation for your garden and flowerbeds.


    Other Ways to Conserve:

    • Stop Dirty Stormwater.Stormwater is rain that runs off hard surfaces (rooftops, streets, parking lots) instead of soaking into the ground. Most stormwater flows from these surfaces directly into a local stream, lake, or bay, carrying with it pollution – like oil, fertilizers, pesticides, garbage, and pet waste – without any treatment. Stormwater is the leading contributor to water pollution of urban waterways in Washington. Stop your contribution to stormwater pollution by adopting a few simple behaviors. For instance, scoop the poop!Pet waste,  especially from dogs, washes into our local waterways when it rains and can have negative impacts on our water quality. Do your part: pick up after your pets and throw their waste in a garbage can.
    • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The 3 R’s aren’t just for waste prevention. Everyday products that we buy, use, and throw away have already used thousands of gallons of water in production. Make conscious decisions to practice the 3 R’s as you shop for everything from clothing and food, to cars and furniture.


    Need more tips? Check out all these awesome water conservation tip sheets:

    RE Sources is committed to promoting sustainable communities and protecting the health of people and ecosystems in our glorious little slice of NW Washington. 

    For more information, please contact us at schools@re-sources.org

    Earth Day Litter Clean up at Locust Beach

    posted Apr 10, 2017, 5:05 PM by Hannah Coughlin


    RE Sources for Sustainable Communities’ AmeriCorps-Washington Service Corps members and Western Washington University club Students for the Salish Sea (SSS), are hosting an Earth Day beach cleanup at Locust Beach to remove trash and large debris from the beach.

    The cleanup is from 10:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday April 22nd at Locust Beach. Participants should meet at the Locust Beach parking lot. There is limited parking so participants are encouraged to carpool or ride your bike. Join us, as we come together as a community and volunteer our time to being stewards of the Salish Sea.

    Natalie Lord, the Aquatic Reserve Coordinator for the Clean Water Program and Lindsey Gard, the Green Classrooms Coordinator for the Sustainable Schools Program, came together in collaboration with SSS to organize this important event. Natalie coordinates the citizen science projects, educational events, and outreach activities to make citizen science more available to our local community. Lindsey facilitates elementary-level education on topics like energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water conservation. 

    There are 500 times more micro plastics in our oceans than stars in our galaxy. Plastic pollution endangers more than 600 species due to ingestion and entanglement, including ourselves. It can be found on every beach around the world, and defines our presence as a species on this planet. Join us in the effort to reduce our impact on the ocean at our Earth Day beach clean up, located at our local marine debris hotspot, Locust Beach! 

    The cleanup is appropriate for all ages. Light snacks and equipment will be supplied, but volunteers are encouraged to bring work gloves and 5-gallon plastic buckets. Registration is not required. 

    Questions: Email Lindsey Gard at lindseyg@re-sources.org


    Earth Day Litter Clean up at Locust Beach
    Saturday April 22nd
    10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
    Locust beach, Bellingham
    Meet at parking lot at Locust Ave (map)

    Material World workshop teaches middle schoolers about consumerism

    posted Feb 14, 2017, 12:33 PM by Hannah Coughlin   [ updated Feb 15, 2017, 12:57 PM by Unknown user ]

    By Priscilla Brotherton, Sustainable Schools Education Specialist

    For the first Material World workshop in our Waste Prevention and Water Conservation programs for middle and high school students, my goal was to teach two classes of 7th graders how their actions have an effect on our world as a whole.

    No small task.

    We started with the big picture. While seated on the floor in a circle, students were told that the pile of chips in the middle of the circle were for all of us. At the beginning of a round, every student had a chance to take resources from the pile. At the end of the round, I would double whatever was left in the pile, and anyone who had 10 or more chips would get a reward. (In this case, the teacher provided the incentive — their school's "Economy Bucks.") The pile could never be any bigger than what it was at the beginning — our pile was at maximum capacity. And they weren’t allowed to communicate once questions were answered.

    What ensued was chaos. Some students dove into the middle to get to the pile first. The round was over before you knew it. Only one or two students got the reward. But, sadly, there was nothing left in the pile. So, nothing could be doubled and the game was over.

    “Would you like to try again?” I asked.

    As you can imagine, the next couple attempts were equally beneficial to some and frustrating to others. The realization that the pool wouldn’t be doubled had some students trying to police the pool and others begging to be able to speak.

    “Would you like to try speaking?” I asked.

    To their relief, they had no restraint in sharing their ideas. The cries of unfairness from those who got none were equal to the looks of regret from those who took plenty. Eventually they formed a “civil society,” agreeing upon a way to play the “game” so that everyone was rewarded.

    The discussion this simulation offers is rich. When asked to draw parallels between the way the chips were treated and the way individuals, and society as a whole, use or overuse renewable resources, the connection was quickly made to deforestation, overfishing, pollution, and more. And when asked to view each individual as a country, the benefit of communication was undeniable.

    This simulation is a pre-lesson to a two-part workshop on consumerism. 

    Part two started with a "What do you remember?" question. The responses were happily right on target with my goals. Students remembered that if we deplete or are greedy with our resources, no one wins.

    With that reflection, the lesson began with a graphic that illustrates how the United States has only 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 25% of its natural resources. We are the person in the circle who is selfishly taking more than our share. Why? How?

    We spent the next hour trying to answer those questions and offer some solutions. Students were taken through a brief synopsis of how the garment industry has an impact on our world, through unseen environmental and human costs. Students made difficult decisions on how packaging — an unseen environmental cost — is complicated. They defended their choices and were allowed to change their minds when the situation called for it.

    The realization that reducing personal consumption habits is beneficial, but engaging students to take a look at their own purchases in a wants-versus-needs personal inventory is truly eye-opening. Many were surprised that they, in fact, didn’t even know how many of a certain item they owned. They were equally dumbfounded when asked what natural resources were used to make the products. After planting the seeds of awareness of personal contributions to the problem, we moved into solutions.

    The creative juices flowed when students were offered different items that would normally head to the landfill, and asked to come up with new uses for each. Examples of repurposed or upcycled products were oohed and aaahed over. To help close the loop, we closed with  a discussion around where, locally, consumers can purchase and recycle used items.

    During the final visit, students will participate in a repurposing or upcycling project, teaching them how to take real action on the concept of consumerism.

    1-10 of 18