Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2023

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


Waste management is fundamental to reducing the anthropogenic impact on the environment. It allows humans to recycle plastic, cardboard, aluminum, etc waste that would otherwise pile in a landfill, and compost food and napkin scraps. Ridgefield High School, a local Connecticut public school, initially diverted all of its cafeteria waste to landfills, with recycling bins only in teachers’ offices and select classrooms. Through the first waste audit conducted on their cafeteria trash, out of 258 lbs of waste collected, there is an 82.5% opportunity for diversion out of the waste stream including liquid, mixed recyclables, food, paper, 5-cent recyclables, and cardboard. Creating the necessary infrastructure for recycling and composting alone will not solve their or any K-12 School waste management problem. This is illustrated through the discussion of the history of environmental education in K-12 schools, environmental psychology, and improved environmental design of infrastructure is essential to create a cultural shift in students to encourage recycling and composting. This is accomplished through promoting sustainable behavior and Community-Based Social Marketing. Chapter 1 includes quantitative and qualitative data on what solid waste is and its environmental effects, the current state of waste management in the US and K-12 school system, and an introduction to the Ridgefield High School Case Study. Chapter 2’s focus is on the history of the k-12 school system’s waste management to the emergence of the K-12 environmental education movement in the late 20th century and early 21st century, as well as the history of RHS’ waste management. Chapter 3 explains how environmental psychology motivates students, with a focus on CBSM and other proven methods. Chapter 4 utilizes environmental design. Starting with the process of conducting a waste audit and designing the physical infrastructure, institutional practices, and curriculum necessary for sustainable behavior. Chapter 5 discusses dialogue with attempted solutions, both already implemented and from personal experience. It will state what attempted policy solutions worked in the RHS case study and what did not.