LAKETON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 2,000 students throughout Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties had a hand in making the planet cleaner, as part of Earth Week.

Jessica Vander Ark, who works for West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), spent the week traveling to schools to educate students and teachers on how to make Earth a cleaner place to live.

Second-graders at Central Elementary School, located north of Muskegon, spent the week digging into Earth. They learned about composting, recycling, landfills and how to sort trash.

Vander Ark, the environmental education director at WMEAC, also educates teachers and students on how to make the switch over to zero waste.

“Teachers are really looking for making big changes with their students as partners,” said Vander Ark.

At Central Elementary they are starting from scratch.

“We’ve had recycle bins set up but hasn’t always been the greatest,” said Alyssa Nauta, a teacher at Central Elementary School.

The school is taking small steps when it comes to transferring to zero waste. It starts with the kids making the switch from paper to plastic. Eventually, they want the whole lunchroom to start composting and recycling.

“There’s a lot of waste that goes from our lunchroom into the Dumpster, so we’d like to reduce that as much as we can,” said Nauta.

Nauta told 24 Hour News 8 it’s an exciting journey to take on and she enjoys watching the kids push the program even further.

“They are coming with knowledge and we’re hoping that they’re going to bring it home also,” said Nauta.

The students are also taught about waste free lunch, another program that helps keep the promises of reduce, reuse, and recycle. Vander Ark prepared the schools she visited during Earth Week for a zero waste lunch on Friday.

A waste free lunch means there is no trash to throw away at the end of the meal. Only compostable items remain such as apple cores, bananas, orange peels, peach or cherry pits.

A list of items that fit the waste free lunch program include: a reusable carrier, reusable containers, thermos, cloth napkin, silverware to wash and reuse, etc. Items to avoid using include: plastic bags, foil or Styrofoam, single-use cartons or cans, paper napkins, plastic silverware, straws, bottled water, etc.