Clark County Public Health recently named Alex Yost, a Washougal High School professional technical assistant and substitute teacher, as the 2022 recipient of its Green Apple Award, given annually to a school employee who works to reduce harmful environmental impacts.
“With Yost’s guidance, Washougal High School has become a leader among schools in Clark County, demonstrating a successful model of cafeteria sustainability that other schools can replicate,” according to a news release.
The award came as “a definite surprise” to Yost.
“It’s a cool thing. It’s always an honor to be recognized for your work,” she said. “At the same time, it was kind of awkward, in a way, because I was like, ‘That’s just my job.’ I’ve never liked to be singled out for something, especially when it’s such a team effort. But I know with an award like that, they pick one person to be the face of it. I appreciate it and I’m honored. There’s a very beautiful, reclaimed metal fish trophy that I want to find a place in the school for, because it’s great to put the Washougal School District on the map in that way.”
Yost has been a “driving force” behind the district’s sustainability initiatives in the past two years, according to the county’s news release, helping the district achieve bronze-level certification in the EarthGen program, a K-12 program that allows schools takinglong-term environmental actions to earn recognition for creating healthier, more sustainable campuses.
In 2020-21, Yost led an effort to bring sorting tables to the Washougal High cafeteria. The long tables feature brightly colored signage and buckets, allowing students and staff members to drop their food waste, recyclable items and garbage into the proper containers.
“For me, the biggest impact is that students see they are responsible for the waste that they create,” Yost said. “By having to go through and not just dump everything in the trash, you see the amount of milk that gets dumped out, you see the amount of materials that are recyclable versus have to be thrown in the trash, and also the compost. That for me was the biggest ‘win.'”
Yost also helped school efforts to replace single-use plastic silverware and paper plates with durable porcelain plates, plastic trays and stainless steel silverware, a project Margaret Rice, director of culinary services, began in 2020.
“We did the math and we estimated that we were actually able to recoup our costs on the 10th meal served,” Yost said. “All we had to do was serve a student 10 times and we’ve already made our money back on the initial investment of the plates. It’s good for the environment, good for the bottom line, and it teaches a valuable life lesson to the students.”