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Schools in Ottawa County, Grand Rapids win 2022 Environmental Service Award Competition

Schools in Ottawa County and Grand Rapids were named the winners of the 2022 Environmental Service Award competition.

The annual contest is sponsored by the Michigan departments of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Natural Resources (DNR), and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) in conjunction with an Earth Day poster contest for middle and high schools.

Schools and teachers nominated students or groups of students, to be recognized for completion of a school sanctioned, environment-based project that had tangible results. The project must benefit plants, wildlife, or ecosystems native to Michigan. Schools confirmed the validity of each project and outcome.

This year, the Careerline Tech Center School, part of the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, and West Side Christian School in Grand Rapids were named the winners.

Careerline Tech Center School, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District

Juniors and seniors in Careerline Tech Center’s Environmental Field Studies program created a project after doing a study about plastic pollution on Ottawa County beaches. The students went to lakes and collected samples of plastic pollution on six beaches. Careerline Tech Center School students collect data on microplastics at an Ottawa County beach.

After analyzing their data, they concluded that the main contaminants were microplastics and single-use plastics. Members from the Outdoor Discovery Center, the Allegan Conservation District, and Ottawa County Parks and Recreation came together to mentor students in brainstorming solutions to problematic plastic. Inspired by the experience of cleaning up beaches, students designed and installed recycling units, called Beach Buddy stations, for plastics at four different shore locations. Students received grants from the EPA Trash Free Waters program and the Inland Seas Education Association’s Great Lakes Watershed Field Course program. The grants provide funds for students to build and install Beach Buddy Stations.

The project helps to:

  • Educate the public about plastic pollution
  • Empower citizens to clean up the lakeshore
  • Recycle plastic materials
  • Prevent plastic from getting into the lakes

The students’ research project was showcased in a local newspaper, the Holland Sentinel.

West Side Christian School, Grand Rapids

West Side Christian Middle School Creation Care (Green Team), grades 6 to 8, is a volunteer student group dedicated to improving sustainable practices through advocacy, awareness, and action. The group started five years ago.

Each year, new students take the lead to set school-wide goals to improve the school community’s recycling efforts, which features a school-wide uniform recycling sort system, with colored-coded containers in each classroom. Students noticed that organic material (banana peels, apple cores, etc.) from lunches eaten in students’ classrooms ended up in the trash bin. They wanted to put food waste to good use by creating compost to add to the school garden. West Side Christian Middle School Creation Care team students collect food waste for composting.

In Spring 2021, students researched and initiated a school-wide composting initiative.  They worked with school administration and the facility manager to research project methods, setup a collection system, and composting area on school grounds.

The project helps to:

  • Reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills.
  • Produce compost that is used in school gardens.
  • Teach excellent social, life, and work skills.
  • Enhance inclusivity, all students work together on the project, including those with special needs


Careerline Tech Center School students collect data on microplastics at an Ottawa County beach.

West Side Christian Middle School Creation Care team students collect food waste for composting.