Students conducting a waste auditLeadership in Environmental Action Projects (LEAP) is a student action program that reduces, reuses and recycles trash from schools and communities and informs people about local solid waste and resource issues. LEAP uses student/community partnerships and cooperative learning to achieve these goals. The St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District, using landfill tipping fee surcharges, funds LEAP.

One of the most important concepts that LEAP communicates to students and teachers is the difference between linear systems, which most man-made systems are, and cyclical systems, which all of nature's systems are. Our goal is to help people begin to appreciate the integral role of energy—its use and conversion from one form to another—and start to look at products as resources rather than as trash. Through participation in field trips, activities and projects, students begin to see the inefficiency and waste of a linear system versus the benefits and practicality of cyclical systems—better for plants, people and the planet.

LEAP uses the 8-Step Action Plan framework as the basis for a student project. The 8-Step Action Plan is a problem solving framework that helps students develop skills which go beyond the mere memorization of information. Using this framework, students learn how to gather information to answer questions they’ve posed themselves. They learn how to narrow their focus and identify individuals in the community who may or may not share their vision of positive change, but who determine how the issue is resolved. Students learn how to create an action plan, and how to evaluate and assess the wide-ranging effects that plan has throughout the community.

Get Involved: Bring LEAP Student Projects to Your School!

LEAP Student Projects help students build a better understanding of waste, where it comes from, and where it goes. LEAP also supports classes and green teams to develop their own community-wide initiatives by teaching a holistic problem-solving approach to identifying and minimizing waste issues in the school. The projects are student driven and are developed based on data collected by students. EarthWays Center staff will lead lessons about waste in the classroom and help students carry out an action project in their school.

In this program, teachers and schools receive:

  • One-on-one support from EarthWays staff
  • Staff support for waste audits
  • Stipend to purchase materials for waste reduction project
  • Preferential scheduling for outreach programs and STEM Nights

LEAP teachers are expected to:

  • Deliver pre-project assessment and evaluation surveys to students
  • Coordinate a pre and post waste audit of the school
  • Identify one project or initiative in their school
  • Participate in one-on-one check-in meetings
  • Develop plan to extend project into future school years
  • Document project activity including photos, student comments, etc.,
  • Submit a final case study of their project

To be eligible for the network, schools must be located in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, or Jefferson County. If you would like to receive more information about participating in a LEAP student project, please contact Maggie at or (314) 577-0281.


Students meeting to discuss waste reduction