Back-to-School Tips for Packing Waste-Free Lunches

At We Future Cycle one of the biggest challenges we see with lunchroom waste is the plastic baggies kids bring from home.  We are able to compost and recycle 95% of lunchroom waste, and the remaining 5% is plastic bags and chip bags that go into the trash.

It’s easy to eliminate this waste, however, if lunches are packed in reusable plastic containers (i.e., Tupperware) or in one of the handy reusable wraps and containers shown in this video!  Teach your child to be responsible for waste by packing his or her lunch in a reusable container.  Be the leader in changing wasteful lunch-packing habits!

Worms, Worms, Glorious Worms, White Plains Ridgeway Students LOVE their new friends

Recently White Plains Ridgeway 2nd grade students learned all about how important worms are for this world. They listened to a presentation about them, and got down and dirty to check them out up close and personal.

And now they are taking care of them and are writing about them. Check out what Maria and Saul have to say about them.

Worms Are Awesome!

By Saul Leon Huerta and Maria Clara Bornia

Worms Are Awesome! Worms are important for our environment because they eat food waste and then poop out rich soil. The worm poop is called castings.  Their poop has a lot of nutrients for the soil and is good for all the plants. This is called compost. They eat our food waste, which doesn’t only help them but helps Worms eat half their body weight every day! Worms have to stay under the soil and the leaves so they don’t dry up and die. They have to be moist. Our class is learning about worms and worm composting. We are trying to recycle and reuse stuff so it cannot go into the landfill. We set up a worm composting bin in our class. It is called vermiculture. Our worms eat our natural snack waste. We gave them banana peel, watermelon, and strawberry. We made a hypothesis to predict what food they would eat first. Most of us guessed watermelon. We observed for a week and discovered they ate more watermelon. Our hypothesis was correct! Next we will give them an apple core. We think they will love it!

Only so little left! Celebrating a 98% diversion into recycling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADiverting 98% of school lunchroom waste into recycling is now normal at the Westchester Schools that are running the We Future Cycle recycling program. This is what came out of a school with over 1000 students every day. 32 bags of loosely filled, dripping with left over milk.

However once the students learn about the impact sorting can make, this school is down 98% of it original amount. Only that small black bag, weighing 4 lbs is what is actually trash.

The three bags of milk cartons are now going hand in hand with the plastics to the Westchester Material Recovery facility for recycling, and the green large toter contains all the food waste and all the trays to be composted.

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White Plains Ridgeway’s 2nd graders welcome their “new friends”

Picture1Meet the new “friends” of Ridgeway’s Ms. Vendola’s second grade. Eager students learned all about the wonders of worm composting, or technically called Vermiculture.

We Future Cycle Executive Director Anna Giordano brought her composting friends to share with the students. Primed and prepared by Ms. Vendola, Students learned in a presentation about how worms eat, breathe, live and of course….poop. The worm casting is what makes vermiculture so desirable, talking about fertilizer on steroids!

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After learning about it, students got to check things out for themselves. On wet paper towels, in a darkened room, each student, armed and dangerous with a magnifying glass looked for baby worms and cocoons. They learned how worms can move and checked out the bristles on the underside (yes, worms have an underside) of the worm that helps them to move.  Picture3

And then we built their very own worm bin and some of Anna Giordano’s “friends” have a new home now at White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School. Students will do scientific observations as to what foods are preferred by the worms, how long it takes for an apple core to be consumed and how fast the worms multiply in a friendly environment. A fascinating, hands-on experience for the students.

 

White Plains School Milk Cartons Recycled At Material Recovery Facility

DSCN2827On April 23rd, just in time for Earth day, Westchester’s Material Recovery Facility added milk cartons to their list of recyclable materials. They are actually taking not only milk cartons which are called by the industry “gable tops” a paper product container with a PET lining, but also “aseptics” which is a paper container with an aluminum foil and PET liner.

A typical Westchester Elementary school is generating around 500 cartons per day. A mix of cable tops (milk cartons) and aseptics (like juice boxes).

We Future Cycle has been instrumental pushing for Westchester to join the surrounding counties accepting this material. The We Future Cycle recycling program includes sorting the milk cartons from day one. If the material was recycled depended how the school had their waste removal organized.

There are three systems of waste removal within Westchester school districts.

A: The district gets picked up by their municipality for free or for a fee

b: The district pays a commercial carter for waste removal

c: The district has their own employees pick up the waste and feed into their municipal system.

White Plains, New Rochelle and Mamaroneck are feeding into the Westchester MRF and are all We Future Cycle schools. They are excited to be able to finally have the cartons included with commingled.

White Plains has even made adjustments to their pick up schedule to accommodate for the increased recycling amounts as well as the drastically reduced trash.

Before implementing the We Future Cycle recycling program, White Plains DPW picked up trash every day, but now with the drastically reduced waste, and the increased amount of recycling, the schedule was adjusted to twice per week recycling pick up and a reduction down to only 2 or 3 times per week garbage pick up.

Commercial carters do not feed their materials into the Westchester County Material Recovery Facility across from Stew Leonard’s, they use the commercial single stream facilities in the area. The schools using commercial carters have been able to recycle their cartons from day one.

 

White Plains Church St Elementary School Students Compost Healthy Snack Waste

3ba6684d-abfe-412a-923e-0d5c14d498b8Students from K through 2nd Grade are carefully walking the blue classroom compost pail to the school courtyard that houses a lovely learning garden, a greenhouse with the first projects budding and a nice compost tumbler.

Church St Elementary School adopted the We Future Cycle recycling program in October of 2015 and has decreased its lunchroom waste by a whopping 98%, sorting out all recyclable and compostable materials. In the classrooms the students are diligently sorting out all paper and commingled into the correct bins, leaving very little for the trash can.

Now, under the leadership of Principal Castillo and Assistant Principal Jackson, the school is solving another problem. Mid morning snack!

Students were presented with common snack packaging materials and asked if they thought it was healthy for them. They all knew that chips, cookies, caramelized popcorn and traditionally single served packaged snacks were not healthy for them. One child explained to me: ” Chips are not food, they are just snack”

We Future Cycle presenters went into all kindergarten through 2nd grade classes and helped students make a very important connection. We eat to stay healthy, the foods we eat should be healthy to keep our body healthy, and foods that come directly from the Earth are healthy and naturally without packaging material. Church St students realized that their choice of snack can help their body and their Earth to stay healthy.

Students that bring their snack in reusable containers and are waste free receive a paper leaf, write their name on it, and then paste it to the Waste Free Tree outside the cafeteria. Check out this leaf sprouting tree! DSCN2821

Healthy food waste will make Church St’s garden grow. Two green children from each class are carefully placing all apple cores and banana peels into the composter and over time get to see close up the wonders of decomposition. DSCN2817

 

New Rochelle Jefferson Elementary Students On-Site Composting To Feed The Garden

DSCN2386Jefferson Elementary School has partnered with the Manhattanville College to become even greener. Under leadership of Maia Starcevic and Aimee Ferguson, proud recipients of the exclusive Science Wipro Grant, and in cooperation with the Manhattanville College fabulous raised beds were built right at the front playground.

Students and parents were participating and learning about the concept of thematic raised beds and they came out beautiful.

And right next to it, is Jefferson’s new compost tumbler. Because Jefferson’s students are all about feeding the garden. All students are now seasoned waste sorters in the lunchroom and know that most packaging can be recycled, and all food and paper products can be composted.

Bringing Sustainability to the next level, students recently learned in class by class presentations led by We Future Cycle’s experienced trainers about healthy foods and making healthy choices. Fruits and veggies are really the best snack food and students are gobbling them up. Teachers are seeing more and more healthy snacks coming in and also foods  in reusable containers, rather than plastic baggies.  Gone are the chips for snack, and welcome Mr Apple! And it is that apple core, or banana peel that will go into Jefferson’s composter, making the circle of life suddenly touchable for the children.

eefe711b-95b4-4bef-b0c4-4493f7583b44Everyday at snack, the students will put all healthy snack waste into a little blue bucket instead of into the classroom trash bin. That blue bin is then carried into the courtyard and emptied into the composter. Students can see how decomposition takes place over time, and they realize that there is nothing yucky about composting. Each time they bring snack without creating garbage, they are rewarded with a leaf, that will then be proudly pasted to the “Jefferson feeds the Garden” Tree right outside Assistant Principal Ms Bruno’s office.

Jefferson students are making a difference, every day, and they are shaping their community by asking mom to give them healthy  snacks without creating any garbage.