Green Steps


Green Steps Schools is an environmental education and action initiative that recognizes schools in South Carolina who take annual sustainable steps toward becoming more environmentally responsible.

Here at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, we are seeking to respond to the “groans in travail” of the earth discussed by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si and address some problems of waste here at our school.

Some of our current projects are:


Recycle – Collection Bins

The middle school Environmental Club continues to empty the teacher bins into the hall containers on a bi-weekly basis. They also empty the containers in the school library. Mrs. Shapiro assigned the students specific classrooms and locations, and they have been very good about completing their recycling duties. This year, we assigned High School National Science Honor Society student volunteers to pick up the recycling in the front office area and in all of the classrooms on the third floor (science and math) and take it down to the dumpster. This was wildly successful and made the teachers very happy. We are hoping to extend that to the classrooms on other floors of the high school next year if we can find enough volunteers.

The high school students collecting the bins continue to report the presence of items that should not be recycled, so the High School Environmental Club created posters to illustrate what can and cannot be recycled. These were placed around the school over the course of two weeks. The middle school science teachers each spoke to their classes about the posters, and Mr. Keith Perham, the 8th grade science teacher, reported back that many of his students were surprised by what was on the trash poster. They had not realized that they should not be recycling those items.

I received a grant from DHEC to purchase two recycling bins for our football stadium so that we could begin a recycling program for sporting events. These were received this spring, and we are seeing fans use them for plastic bottles and cans that used to go directly into the trash. We have gone from zero recycling collected to about 1 full can every couple of weeks during the soccer season, according to our facilities department.

Recycle – Lunchtime Drink Containers

Now that we have a liquid collection container in the lunchroom, we have had very good success in middle school. The teachers reminded students at the start of the year to empty their bottles and cans while they were doing their tapping and stacking, and had them put those into the recycle bin located next to the red liquid container. We continue to collect about 1 full recycling container almost every week, so all that material has been redirected from the trash cans.

Reduce – Tap and Stack
Teacher: Joanna McLucas

Mentor: Brandon Hunter

The middle school Tap and Stack program was very successful this year. Mrs. Shapiro organized a very responsible group from her Environmental Club to help. At the beginning of the year, they stood there as the students came up with their styrofoam plates and cups and showed them how to tap and stack. After the initial weeks, they stood there and reminded students who needed a refresher. They then cleaned up after the entire middle school finished. As the year progressed, these students were able to work a bit less because the student body knew the routine. During most days, the MS was able to fit all of their lunch waste into 2 to 2½ containers.

During the fall, we implemented Tap and Stack in the high school lunchroom. The students received information about the program through announcements at assembly, and then I was present in the cafeteria every day helping them to implement. Many of the ninth-graders were familiar with the program from their middle school years. We were able to reduce the high school lunch waste containers from 5 or 6 down to 3.


Air – Breathe Better Campaign
Teacher: Elizabeth Duncan

Mentor:  Amy Curran

We started the year by using the EPA’s air quality lesson on the effects of air pollution. The kids were disgusted to find out what bad air can do to their lungs. Then the students did the vehicle count to see how many cars were idling in our middle school car line. Once we got our baseline data (which was already very good — we’ve been doing this for a few years, so many parents already turn off their cars), we made posters telling parents they need to turn off their cars in order to keep our air cleaner. Students held the posters and talked to their parents/carpool people. We immediately saw a reduction in idling. However, students came to me in the spring and mentioned that they noticed more idling was going on. We brainstormed possible reasons (such as air conditioners being turned on), and they made an effort to talk to 7th and 8th graders and their parents again.

At our final count in April, we had a couple of cars idling, but only 2 out of the 10 that were in line. In terms of percentages, that means we went from 33% idling to 20% idling. Not a huge jump, but the kids were pleased and mentioned that if we had done counts throughout the year, we might have been able to decrease our percentage even more. Maybe that’s what we aim for in 2019-2020 — having a monthly count and perhaps figuring out how to post their posters full-time in the car line, rather than just sporadically holding them up for people to see.

Litter - Reduction

Mentor: Deanna D’amato

We have several components in our work to decrease Litter. First, we host a Campus Cleanup by grade level, starting with the middle school in the fall and followed by the high school grades in the spring. The students who volunteer receive points for the Household team toward the Headmaster’s Cup title. The middle school students stay in the bounds of where the students play on our campus. The high school students take over picking up the areas along the road and in the parking lots. One of the members of the high school Environmental Club helped to organize the middle school cleanup sessions, and Mrs. Shapiro addressed the importance of picking up litter in her middle school Environmental Club. The entire school heard about the clean-ups and their purpose through our school announcements.

Another component of the program is our participation in a litter-free game. This year, at the school’s football homecoming, we had students from our high school Environmental Club greet the fans with information on our litter-free game and free litter bags for use in their cars. The announcers explained to the crowd our goal of reducing litter at our home games, and during halftime and at the end of the game, students walked around and collected trash from the people in the stands. It was a very successful event.

Finally, we implemented a short program to decrease the litter at our basketball games. Several students from the Environmental Club picked up the litter after a home game. We collected several small black trash bags. The area with the most trash was the home seating for our students. The coaches encouraged our students to pick up after themselves and to show their school spirit. After the next two home games, my helpers reported a decrease in trash.


Habitat – Gardens

The high school Environmental Club rooted and potted spider plants and Christmas cactus and gave them to interested high school faculty members to fight indoor air pollution. They used pots given to us by faculty members and covered the pots with old fabric to brighten them up.

We received a grant from the Greenville Soil and Water District, which helped to purchase a raised bed that was put in near the middle school garden area. We will be planting pollinator and butterfly plants in that bed this spring and using it during our environmental science unit on biodiversity and habitat next school year. We hope it will increase the productivity of our garden.

Soil – Vermiculture Garden Tower

We recently set up a vermiculture bin for the high school science area. The high school environmental science class will be using it during our last weeks of school to learn more about composting.

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