A data-driven lesson series for New York City middle and high school student changemakers


The Waste Deep lesson series for middle school and high school students takes an in-depth look at the economic, social, and environmental impacts of waste on New York City and the world.  Students work together to gain an authentic and holistic understanding of different issues. They are guided to pitch solutions to their peers, motivating their school and our city towards Zero Waste. How far and deep the students go is up to them!

Waste Deep Series Overview - Waste Deep is comprised of five parts (WD1-5) that lead students from understanding the issues around waste through the process of developing and evaluating a school specific action plan. Start here for a quick look at WD1-5, including a description of each part in the series and suggested time frame for completion.

Call to Action - A letter from Meredith McDermott, Director of the DOE Office of Sustainability

Click on a heading below to expand that section and view available resources.


WD1 Overview
WD1 Lesson Plan
WD1 Issue Cards
WD1 Issue Cards Slides (PPT, PDF)
WD1 Student Response Cards
WD1 Gallery Walk Exit Card
WD1 Waste Journal

WD1 Toolkit - All of the above WD1 materials in one packet. 

In WD1, students examine over 65 printable quotes, statistics, graphs, maps, definitions, excerpts, cartoons, and photographs to gain a multidisciplinary understanding of waste and its relationship to current economic, social, and environmental issues in New York City and the world.

  • Consumerism: From terms like “planned obsolescence” to political cartoons showing the “rat race” of seeking happiness from money, students will explore the environmental effects of our consumption habits.
  • Environmental Justice: The definition of environmental justice applies to more than just waste. Students will discuss the inequities that exist in the world of waste management and beyond.
  • Natural Resource Extraction: Students will learn the ways our economy has been built upon the use of finite resources and the environmental and human consequences of this system.
  • “Away”: Students will engage with the concept of “away,” showing that landfills, incinerators, and the oceans are the actual places that receive our waste when we do not recycle.
  • NYC Waste: Students will receive an overview of the history and present reality of waste management in New York City.



WD2 Overview
WD2 Lesson Plan
WD2 Slides (PPT, PDF)

WD2 Toolkit - All of the above WD2 materials in one packet. 

WD2 engages students with New York City specific data so that they can understand the composition of their waste, where it goes, how it gets there, and the challenges and goals of NYC's 0x30 sustainabilty plan.



WD3 Overview
WD3 Lesson Plan
Data Capture Tools Overview
Waste Journal
Student Survey
Adult Interview
Collecting Cafeteria Data
Recycling Inspection Rating Chart
Classroom Waste Investigation
Bin Tally Sheet

WD3 Toolkit - All of the above WD3 materials in one packet. 

WD3 provides students an opportunity to learn about cases when citizen scientists used data to expose environmental issues and drive positive social change. Students then select and prepare a research tool to investigate the waste-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of themselves, their peers, and the adults in their school community. Students can analyze their findings, present summaries to their peers, and use their research to guide their action plans developed in WD4 Taking Creative Action.



WD4 Overview

In WD4 students explore fun and creative options to educate and inspire their school community to move toward zero waste. Students learn about popular changemakers from the past and active in society today. They then develop and exercise skills in leadership, organizing, and the arts as they build awareness of the issues, share findings from their research, and express themselves in impactful ways



WD5 Overview

In WD5 students collect data and make group reflections to evaluate the effectiveness of their action plans, present key findings, and discuss opportunities for continued improvement. Tracking and showcasing the impact that students have on moving their school community toward zero waste is an ongoing process.



While there are five parts to the Waste Deep series, teachers can implement each lesson independently. This cross-curricular resource is aligned with NGSS and Common Core ELA/Literacy standards.

Waste Deep Extensions & Resources