It’s about 11:50 a.m. and custodian Dave Holbrook quickly opens up the cafeteria door for a group of hungry students.
He reminds them to wash their hands, answers questions and gives directions. But an important part of his job is to make sure that the students at this Sammamish school take an extra step when they're done with their lunches.
"We recycle everything," Holbrook said. "On top of that, we do food waste."
For his efforts, Holbrook, a Sammamish resident, will receive an "Earth Hero at School" award Thursday from King County Executive Dow Constantine. It will be the second time that Holbrook has received this environmental award -- the first time was when he worked at Newcastle Elementary School.
"Winners of the Earth Heroes at School awards are a diverse group who share the common goal of making our world a better place," Constantine said in a statement.
"It is an honor to recognize their achievements in environmental education, waste reduction, energy conservation and other positive efforts."
What Holbrook has helped accomplish at Creekside, which opened in the fall, is a recycling rate of 55 percent. He started on the first day of school and accomplished that rate in the first month, the county said.
"That meant Dave had to be proactive," Principal Robin Earl said.
Inside the cafeteria, near a door, sit gray, yellow and blue trash cans.
At the end of a typical day, Holbrook said, a gray 44-gallon can is full of garbage. A yellow 20-gallon bin is full of food scraps. Two blue cans, which are 32-gallon containers, hold cartons, bottles and cans.
A smaller container has foil-like juice containers. The PTSA, he said, collects them and they later get recycled by a company and turned into backpacks and notebooks.
Translation: Food, containers and other products will be composted or recycled, making for less garbage.
"We reduce the weight of our garbage," he said. "We reduce the size of our containers."
That helps the school save money because waste companies typically charge based on a garbage container's size.
Holbrook, 51, also works with a group of students, dubbed the "Waste Watchers." These students help their classmates make sure cans, bottles and cartons get placed in the right bins.
"They also patrol the trash cans," he said.
When they see that something ended up in the wrong bin, they use tongs to make sure they end up in the proper container.
Earl explained that his efforts to help the environment are a match for the building, which has energy-efficient features, such as motion sensors for lights.
"It's about the whole," she said. "Everything exudes green and protecting the environment."
Holbrook is grateful for recycling support from the Issaquah School District, the city of Issaquah and King County.
"I appreciate all the help," he said. "They made it possible."
Before this lunch shift was over, he helped one student tie his shoe. He opened several bottles for thirsty students and read a few fortunes from fortune cookies. He swept up food that spilled on the floor and directed students to their classes.
As the lunch period was winding down, some students wiped the tables. One girl swept the floor.
"Thanks guys," he said.
Editor's note: Holbrook and others from King County will receive their awards on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the Community Center at Mercer View in Mercer Island. The address is 8236 SE 24th St., Mercer Island.