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Interactive Lobby Display

The lobby display at Gateway School in Santa Cruz, CA was made of salvaged materials and consisted of eight elements: a heading made by students, a colorful poster describing the history of recycling, an interactive chart of decomposition times, a reusable container display, waste facts, photos of a tree planting celebration that students had participated in, tips for parents, and a section where viewers could write their own waste reduction ideas. At the end of Earth Week we added a table and graph of our waste-reduction results.

Since our time was rather limited, the display was put together by parent volunteers. Next year we're planning to have the older students do it. We'll also add a schedule of events for the week so students know exactly what lunchtime activities will be offered each day.

The Display Heading read "Earth Day is Every Day." It was made out of salvaged odds and ends by the children in after school care. An aide drew the letters (about 8" by 10") on the back of an old wall calendar, and the children cut them out and decorated them by glueing items such as bottle caps, packing peanuts, etc. on them.

The History of Recycling poster came from the California Department of Conservation at www.consrv.ca.gov or 1-800-recycle.

The Decomposition Times we used were:

  • Glass Bottles/Jars 1,000,000 years
  • Aluminum Cans 80-100 years
  • Plastic Bags10-20 years
  • Plastic Coated Paper 5 years
  • Orange and Banana Peels 2-5 weeks
  • Newspaper 2-4 weeks

The heading "Guess these decomposition times." was written above the display. The name of each item was written on a discarded paper bag and glued onto a large piece of cardboard. Flaps made out of construction paper scraps were added under each bag and the decomposition times were written underneath. Participants enjoyed lifting the flaps to learn about decomposition times.

The Reusable Container Display was made up of a lunch box, a partitioned lunch container, a Laptop Lunch Container flyer, a fork and spoon set, and a cloth napkin, all attached to the board with clear packing tape. The heading read "What does a waste-free lunch look like?"

The Waste Facts were written on scrap paper and mounted on the board on a backing of discarded wrapping paper.The facts were taken from the California Department of Conservation's Trivia, Facts, and Other Stuff, available at www.consrv.ca.gov or 1-800-recycle.

We used the heading, "Did you know...?" and the following facts:


  • Americans use 4 million plastic bottles every hour!--yet only 1 bottle out of 4 is recycled.
  • One ton of paper made completely from recycled scrap saves 7,000 gallons of water, 4100 kilowatt hours of energy, three cubic yards of landfill space and 17 trees.
  • Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year. That's enough to build a 12-foot high wall of paper from New York to California.
  • Americans throw away about 10% of the food they buy at the supermarket. This results in dumping the equivalent of more than 21 million shopping bags full of food into landfills every year.
  • One recycled aluminum can saves enough electricity to operate a TV for 3 hours.

The photos of the tree planting were just that--photos of the tree planting.

The Tips for Parents came from the parent information that we had sent home earlier.

The Write Your Own Ideas part of the display was written on the back of discarded posters. We used the heading "What can you do in your life to reduce waste?" We then used crayons to draw lines the width of the poster about 2 1/2 inches apart. We posted them on the board and provided markers in a "pencil pocket" made out of paper salvaged from the recycle bin.

The Waste Reduction Table and Graph were provided on recycled paper.


Here are a few photos of our display. Unfortunately the "W" in Week seems to have taken a temporary leave of absence on that day. Please use your imagination!

Earth Day Display - Waste-free Lunches  Earth Day Display - Waste-free Lunches