Students grow ‘green mindedness’ at Surrey school

SURREY — On a cloudy Thursday morning, three Grade 7 students are roaming the hallways of Royal Heights Elementary school in Surrey, checking the classrooms for proper recycling.

For Vubhu Bhatt, Rohan Dhanda and Garren Grewal, organized waste is better than everything ending up in a landfill, and if it takes just a little bit of manpower to make a difference, they’re here to do it.

Their efforts are part of a new program provided by Northwest Waste Solutions in partnership with the Surrey school district. The goal of the program? Stop global warming, one properly separated piece of trash at a time.

"We have a chart we made. We check the garbage to see if anything is misplaced, and if they do, we give them (the class) a mark," explained Garren, the more reserved and quietest of the trio.

Royal Heights is one of the few pilot schools in Surrey that have implemented the recycling program over the past year. With Vibhu, Rohan and Garren, there have been significant improvements in school waste separation.

While the program benefits the environment, Garren explained, there are also incentives to be the greenest class in the school.

"Whoever has the fewest marks wins a pizza lunch," he said.

Instructor Scott Harris remembers when last year’s Grade 7s kicked off the program and recalled the learning experience they went through at the time.

"The Grade 7s last year did an analysis of people’s garbage," said Harris. "For a few weeks, they were collecting the garbage and tipping it out onto tarps, sorting through every disgusting little piece, and breaking it down."

And, like anything new, last year’s students encountered a few hiccups.

"We had some issues with flies, we had some issues with the secretary not being very happy with them," Harris said with a grin.

Charlotte Brenner, another Royal Heights teacher, commended Vibhu, Rohan and Garren for their work, saying they’ve brought a certain "green-mindedness" to the school.

"These guys said they would be willing to help other leadership teams within the district, if needed," she said. "They’ve done an amazing job."

To that, Rohan responded with, "We just want to say that the worst in our school is the staff."

Laughing along, Vibhu and Garren added, "There’s no problems with the younger ones, just the teachers."

Taking the jokes in stride, Brenner said she hoped the district initiative will be a platform for reduced waste and to get all schools in Surrey involved in the program by the end of the school year.