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Waste that is dumped in our landfills is more than just unattractive; it pollutes local soil and waterways, takes up valuable land, and contributes to climate change. The good news is there are many ways we can reduce the waste that goes to those landfills. Projects listed below address waste-related problems by providing sustainable solutions and educational opportunities.

Advocating for Biodegradable/Compostable Food Ware at Carlmont High School

Community Impact Project Leads – Aran O’Sullivan, Colin Sutter, Ryley Hsiang and Viraj Singh (Carlmont High School) 

Project Description: In this project, students worked together to advocate to school and district administration to remove plastic food ware from the cafeteria and instead to opt-in for biodegradable utensils. Concurrently, the Sequoia Union School District approved updates to more sustainable food ware which provided an opportunity for these students to donate their demonstration utensil kits to a local food shelter. 

Read Aran’s Case Study

Read Colin’s Case Study

Read Ryley’s Case Study

Read Viraj’s Case Study

Providing Compost Facilities and Education at South San Francisco High School

Community Impact Project Leads – Kyle You (El Camino High School) and Zeenia Najmi (South San Francisco High School) 

Project Description: In this project,  students identified an issue with culinary classes at South San Francisco High School disposing of food waste into landfill bins because there was not a compost bin available on site. Students worked with school administration and teachers of the culinary program to install a vermicomposting (composting with worms) bin in close proximity to the culinary classes. Students also hosted an educational composting workshop for students to learn more and understand how to use this bin effectively when at school. 

Read Kyle’s Case Study

Read Zeenia’s Case Study

Waste Reduction Awareness Campaign at Aragon and Hillsdale High Schools

Community Impact Project Leads – Philippos Iliopoilos (Hillsdale High School), Uma Drinan (Aragon High School), and Veronica Mullins (Aragon High School)

Project Description: In this project, students created digital advertising materials distributed at their school’s virtual classrooms and accessible to each student at the school when checking assignments in the virtual platform. They also hosted an in person litter clean up event at their school to get their peers involved in taking action against litter issues too. 

Read Philippos’s Case Study

Read Uma’s Case Study

Read Veronica’s Case Study

Petition and Advocacy to Reduce Waste at Burlingame High School

Community Impact Project Leads – Jack Flanzer, Jayden Wan, Shayna Blum, Sydney Chen (Burlingame High School)

Project Description: In this project, students sought to reduce the carbon footprint of the San Mateo Unified School District by eliminating plastic lunch packaging and utensils at their school sites. To start this conversation with administration and their peers, students created a petition and spoke directly to the Board during a public commentary period at a weekly meeting. 

Read Jack’s Case Study

Read Jayden’s Case Study

Read Shayna’s Case Study

Read Sydney’s Case Study

School Supply Swap at Woodside High School

Community Impact Project Leads – Misha Patel & Nyla Tinker (Woodside High School)

Project Description: In this project, students teamed up to address the end of the school year waste that they noticed in their fellow students. They planned and implemented an educational awareness campaign and school supply swap center at their high school to capture school supplies that are still useful but might have ended up in the landfill as the school year comes to a close and students no longer need previously purchased school supplies. 

Read Misha’s Case Study

Read Nyla’s Case Study

Tri-Bin Education at SMC Hebrew School

Community Impact Project Leads – Noelle Akemann, Raquel Rieber, Shu-Han Lim (Woodside High School) 

Project Description: In this project, students tapped into the community through a religious foundation’s Hebrew School. Students were inspired to bring composting resources and education to students after noticing that waste was not thoughtfully considered by students. This involved an educational workshop for students as well as discussing implementation of compost bins and facilities at the site. 

Read Noelle’s Case Study

Read Raquel’s Case Study

Read Shu-Han’s Case Study

Single Use Plastic Education and Awareness Campaign

Community Impact Project Leads – Badri Viswanathan, Gurkiran Sohal, Maya Wu, Sydney Shell (Hillsdale High School) 

Project Description: In this project, students wanted to make the conversation of the waste we create real to residents of San Mateo County. This student group chose to table in front of a Foster City Library to recommend individuals to refuse plastic water bottles and other single use items along with bringing to light the harmful choices humans make when purchasing single use plastics that have a negative impact on the planet. 

Read Badri’s Case Study

Read Gurkiran’s Case Study

Read Maya’s Case Study

Read Sydney’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Angelica Buncio, Cassandra Bousquet, and Katherine Vilchez (Mercy High School) 

Project Description: For this project, this group of students chose to focus on the awareness of the network that exists who are working together to reduce the impacts of climate change. This event was hosted by the above students and many local partners like South San Francisco Scavenger, Citizens’ Environmental Council, the County’s Office of Sustainability and Office of Education, amongst others, who were invited to table at this event. This group also handed out free t-shirts to students that completed a passport to visit at least three different booths. The goal of this project was to educate and help people learn more about the impacts of climate change and what we can do when we work together to slow those impacts. 

Read Angelica’s Case Study

Read Cassandra’s Case Study

Read Katherine’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Christina Zhou, Isabelle Chiang, Katherine Tsvirkunova and Payton Zolck (Woodside High School) 

Project Description: For this project, this group of students wanted to engage in an activity they love that also helps the planet – plogging! Plogging is defined as a combination of walking/running in open spaces and picking up trash. This group wanted to address issues of reducing waste, educating the public and creating a lasting impact that will allow ecosystems to provide their essential services that reduce the impacts of climate change. This group partnered with San Mateo County Parks to identify trails that see the most usage in our County and install plogging stations so that individuals on the trail have an opportunity to pick up the waste they see as they are recreating. 

Read Christine’s Case Study

Read Isabelle’s Case Study

Read Katherine’s Case Study

Read Payton’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Elena Hung (Burlingame High School)

Project Description: For this project, Elena teamed up with Burlingame Public Libraries to offer two online workshops targeted to teach teens a little bit more about sustainability and how to make a positive impact on the environment. Elena hosted two workshops in the virtual space titled “Zero Waste Mini Apple Pie Cooking Class” and “No-Sew Upcycled T-Shirt Reusable Face Mask Workshop”. Through these workshops, Elena learned how to communicate about simple and creative ways to reduce waste. 

Read Elena’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Keyaan Maqsood (Burlingame High School)

Project Description: For this project, Keyaan chose to take a closer look at the waste system and its management at his high school. Keyaan chose to focus on this because he noticed a serious problem with how much waste is left on the ground or in the wrong bin at his school. After conducting his audit, Keyaan shared recommendations of what to implement next to school administration in the hopes of approaching the issues exemplified during the waste audit. 

Read Keyaan’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Arda Inegol and Madeleine Shimkus (Burlingame High School) 

Project Description: For this project, Arda and Madeleine teamed up to learn more about the upcoming implementation of a tri-bin system at Burlingame High School. This system is slated to begin in spring 2022 so this group chose to take this opportunity to educate their peers on what the tri-bin system is, how to use it and its value at their school site. To get everyone on the same page about the new waste system, this group hosted an activity to conduct a personal waste audit which allowed students to gather information about their daily waste amounts and record the data on a shared document. 

Read Arda’s Case Study

Read Madeleine’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Catie Mullins (Aragon High School)

Project Description: For this project, Catie developed a way for individuals to participate in a clean up event happening all month long throughout San Mateo. This involved providing outreach to those who live, work and play in San Mateo and asking them to give back to the outdoor spaces they love by cleaning up the waste that is left on the ground. Each individual who participated in the clean-up gained new awareness on litter issues in San Mateo and a prize for participating in the clean-up event. 

Read Catie’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Caitlin Sorensen, Gregory Parmer-Lohan, Kaylee Macomb (Sequoia High School)

Project Description: For this project, this group of students wanted to gather evidence on why the waste system at their school is not working. They noticed that not only do students seem to not care or be confused on how to properly sort but the infrastructure at their school site was also not serving the needs of students. This group worked with site administration, the County’s Office of Sustainability and their peers to take stock of what the current infrastructure and sorting practices are happening at Sequoia High School to provide recommendations for the system in the future. 

Read Caitlin’s Case Study

Read Gregory’s Case Study

Read Kaylee’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Eryx Steinbrecher (San Mateo High School) 

Project Description: For this project, Eryx organized a beach clean up event and invited families from the surrounding area to participate. This project was meant to address the education and awareness around the waste we create and what happens when our trash is left on the ground. This project also offered community service hours to high school students who participated. 

Read Eryx’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Cleo Rehkopf (Menlo-Atherton High School)

Project Description: For this project, Cleo chose to conduct a baseline assessment of the waste system at her high school. She wants to expand the current waste infrastructure to include compost and decided to start by gathering the essential data to convince students and administration alike that a lot of the waste created at Menlo-Atherton can be diverted away from the landfill and back to the soil. After her assessment, she shared the data collected with administration to continue conversations towards infrastructure updates on campus. 

Read Cleo’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Bethany Shih (San Mateo High School / Middle College)

Project Description: For this project, Bethany chose to focus on the waste system at her middle college site. Bethany wanted to start conversations with her peers about why the waste we create matters in the climate crisis and the small steps we can take to make a big impact on waste systems and our climate. Bethany worked with her school’s green team and the art club at her middle college site to discuss and communicate about waste systems in the form of posters. 

Read Bethany’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Marissa Teng and Rawan Alayan (Capuchino High School) 

Project Description: Rawan and Marissa worked together to take action on the harmful human systems of the fast fashion industry. These students chose to plan an event that educates their peers on why thrifting is not just trendy but actually has a tremendous impact on reducing waste, water and greenhouse gas emissions which all reduce the impacts of climate change. This involved hosting a singular event at their school site and accepting donations leading up to the event to embrace a culture of thrifting with their peers. 

Read Marissa’s Case Study

Read Rawan’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Calvin Wagner, Kevin Chiu, and Timothy Cheng, and Kevin Chiu (Burlingame High School) 

Project Description: For this project, Calvin, Kevin and Timothy teamed up to approach the issue of waste mismanagement in San Mateo County. They chose to start the conversation with students younger than them at elementary schools by presenting to students on how to properly sort waste and challenge them to a contest. Winners of the contest proved a deep understanding of waste and the waste management system. 

Read Calvin’s Case Study

Read Kevin’s Case Study

Read Timothy’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Swaraa Joshi and Urvi Kulkarni (Carlmont High School)

Project Description: For this project, Swaraa and Urvi chose to investigate the current waste practices at their high school. Both noticed that waste practices seemed to be misaligned as school resumed on their campus in fall 2021. These students conducted a waste audit at their school to take a closer look at how waste is being sorted by students and used this information as data to continue conversations on waste practices with school administration. 

Read Swaraa’s Case Study

Read Urvi’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Lead – Cayenne Wong (Mills High School)

Project Description: For this project, Cayenne sought to update policies and procedures in her school’s cafeteria to encourage sustainable behaviors from her peers, starting with the elimination of single-use plastic in the cafeteria. Cayenne chose to focus on starting conversations with San Mateo Union High School District coordinators with her Environmental Committee team. Cayenne is continuing to advocate for the removal of single-use items at her school and throughout the district. 

Read Cayenne’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Jacob Reed & Alexandra Iliopoulou

Project Description: This project focused on raising awareness around how to make Hillsdale High School’s waste system more sustainable. To do this, Jacob and Alexandra met with their school adminstration to advocate for a tri-bin waste system at their school and to include composting bins across their campus to reduce food waste that went to the landfill. The team also worked with the San Mateo Youth Commission to create a Task Force to monitor the district’s climate impact and compliance with state laws. Learn more about Jacob and Alexandra’s project below.

Read Jacob’s Case Study

Read Alexandra’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Maeve Merwin & Sara Typrin (Woodside High School)

Project Description: This project focused on reducing single use plastics. The team achieved this goal by spreading awareness of the global plastic crisis, and by advocating for more sustainable purchasing policies. This project used social media to spread awareness about plastic waste and hosted an art contest on their Instagram page (@TacklePlastic). The team also worked with the organziation, Story of Plastic, and hosted a virtual documentary screening and virtual post-documentary discussion via Zoom. Learn more about Maeve and Sara’s project below.

Read Maeve’s Case Study

Read Sara’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – China Porter & Louisa Varni (Aragon High School)

Project Description: This project focused on educating local neighborhoods and communities virtually on the effects of paper waste and how overwhelming usage of these products contributes to climate change. The project did this by encouraging people to use less paper as well as give alternative methods to using regular paper. Learn more about China and Louisa’s project below.

Read China’s Case Study

Read Louisa’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Hannah Hsiao & Valerie Fan (Aragon High School)

Project Description: This project focused on educating local businesses and consumers on proper disposal of food packaging and the negative impact that single-use food packaging has on the environment. The team conducted outreach with different businesses across the County to discuss current waste disposal practices and share ideas to increase sustainability. From this outreach, the team started to work closely with Backhaus Bakery. The group is continuing to work with this business to add a stamp onto all of their packaging that tells the customer where the packaging should be disposed of. Learn more about Hannah and Valerie’s project below.

Read Hannah’s Case Study

Read Valerie’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Alyssa Liao (The Nueva School)

Project Description: For this project, Alyssa developed a educational lesson plan for students to learn about waste systems and resource sustainability through creative re-use art projects. Learn more about Alyssa’s project below.

Read Alyssa’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Maya Avida (The Nueva School)

Project Description: For this project, Maya focused on the fast fashion industry and educated her peers on how the clothes we wear contribute to climate change. She also encouraged students to buy less clothes from major retailers and instead go to secondhand stores like Goodwill. Maya also created an Instagram account to spread awareness about the harms of fast fashion and encourage people find alternatives. Learn more about Maya’s project below.

Read Maya’s Case Study


Community Impact Project Leads – Samantha Noll (Mercy High School)

Project Description: Samantha noticed that due to the pandemic, people in her community were donating more items and were interested in sending their donations to organzation where they would be reused or repurposed. With this in mind, Samantha took it upon herself to collect, organize, and ship donated items to the appropriate organizations to ensure these donations did not end up in the landfill. Learn more about Samantha’s project below.

Read Samantha’s Case Study

Coastal Cleanup Event and Education Campaign

Community Impact Project Lead – Alan Flores

Project Description: In this project, students worked together with Pacifica Beach Coalition to create an opportunity for their peers to take the first step in taking climate action. This was done by offering a beach cleanup event on the coast that included a student-led educational component to ensure that the participants in the cleanup understood the detrimental impact litter has to our waterways and all things reliant on those waterways to survive. 

Read Alan’s Case Study

YCA Waste Community Projects