Why food composting can save Westchester’s taxpayer money, big time!

Food waste is around 40% of all waste from households, it is made up of mainly water, thus it is heavy. Garbage cost is calculated by weight. So all this water is costing the tax payer dearly.

Westchester’s garbage is being collected by the municipalities, brought to one of the several transfer stations within the county and from there it is transported in big trucks to the incinerator in Peekskill.

So basically, we are using fossil fuels  (garbage trucks get about 2.6 miles per gallon of diesel fuel) to truck water 50 miles north?

The far better solution would be to sort out all that water laden food waste and actually compost it.  Combine food waste with yard waste and  nature will give us black gold, aka compost.

The absolute best way is to do it right at home. Solon-Compost-Bin-4Have a little bin next to your sink and sort out all your food waste (no bones or meats though, home composters can’t handle that, commercial ones can)

And place that food waste in a ratio of 1 food waste to 3 leaves or woodchips into a composter. It can be a home made one, compost-4-940x626

or a commercially available one like these. And the rest is done by mother nature. Turning the mixture once in a while will introduce oxygen and thus help the bacteria to do a more efficient job. Earth_Machine_close

A few weeks later you will have lovely compost that can be used in your garden.

Most people are afraid that composting will be smelly or attract rodents. With all in life, if it is done right, there is none of that.

Mount Vernon Hamilton School reduces garbage by 94%

Mount Vernon School District recently joined the We Future Cycle program and the trail blazing school was Hamilton Elementary School and under the leadership of Ms Wesolowski, over 500 Hamilton students from K to 6th grade learned all about garbage.

In class by class presentations, students learned that over 90% of their lunch waste is actually either recyclable or compostable, if it was just sorted out.

That alone did not get a lot of reactions from those little guys. It is truly too unwieldy of a concept. But what got their attention big time was when we shared that we can even recycle their left over sandwich.

We usually make a pause to give them a chance to digest that thought.

And then we show them what compost looks like. It is first greeted with some frowns, but upon smelling it, they all proclaim that it smells just like nature. And they are all on board when asked to decide what was better for the world, burning their left over sandwich or making soil out of it.

Students learned about the problems around garbage and that, when we talk about “throwing something away”,  there is no “away” on this earth,  Big eyes opened when students saw pictures of a landfill, but even bigger eyes when they learned that Westchester County brings its 2500 tons of daily (!) garbage to the incinerator in Peekskill to burn it, creating smoke and pollution.

Most students knew already that bottles and cans were recyclable, but were astonished to find out that all milk cartons, juice boxes, aluminum foil and other hard plastics were also recyclable.

Being in a lunchroom, teaching every single student how to sort properly is quite an experience. But it is so rewarding to see the incredible improvement already on day 2.

Hamilton reduced its garbage from 10 bags of trash weighing 106 lbs down to a mere 6.5 lbs, a 94% reduction.

The very next day, a student shared with me that her mother noticed the drastic reduction of garbage bags out at the curb. Great news!

Hamilton Elementary school is now in the process of creating a green team,  empowering students to become agents of green change.

New Rochelle Davis Students commit to making a difference

Writing for a purpose, putting words on paper to commit yourself to a course of action.

That is what New Rochelle Davis students did. Challenged by the prestigious Nina Chin Green Writing contest, 48 students rose to the challenge and committed to making a difference.

Last Thursday, Davis’s auditorium was filled with third, fourth and fifth grade students, all excited and nearly shaking with anticipation.

Who will win?

One by one, Assistant Principal Laurie Marinaro called up the winners, and under thunderous applause the proud students walked up to receive their certificate and their envelop with a cash prize.

This contest is sponsored by the family of the late Nina Chin. Ms Chin was a life long educator and she knew that better writers are better learners. So she sponsored from her own money every year a writing contest for her students, challenging them to rise and put words on paper as a written commitment. And it worked! Nina Chin’s family is proud to continue this tradition and Anna Giordano, Executive Director of We Future Cycle has been honored to administer this grant now for 8 years. This year, two New Rochelle students were chosen.

Even though the contest is only open to 3rd to 5th grade, one second grader decided to participate and wrote a wonderful essay explaining how recycling brings hope for good change. Talia’s grade was not part of the auditorium award ceremony, so she got a visit to the classroom by the Assistant Principal and all the dignitaries to be presented with her certificate. And she got great cheering from her classmates. I am sure, that 2nd grade class cannot wait to participate next year.

Grade 2
Talia Goldsmith wrote a beautiful and long essay entitled “More Recycling, More Hope” and she explains to the reader that plastics do not turn into dirt when they are thrown out and she then launches into a long list of what can be done to educate others and how to do hands on solutions.
Grade 3
Abigayle Mills explains how she is making a difference by doing the 6 Rs actually, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Rethink, Repair and Refuse. She is explaining how every person can do follow the 6 Rs and she cites interesting facts she collected while researching for this essay.
Ben Kessler is pointing in his essays to many overlooked environmental problems. He lists how people are wasting power and are putting chemicals on their lawns that can hurt people and animals and is causing pollution in our water. He explains the looming problems associated with global warming and then he launches into a detailed description of how he and his families are actively making a difference by bringing all food in reusable containers, picking up trash when they are on a hike and growing a garden. He ends with a powerful call to action :” Everybody can do more. The environment is our life and we need to take care of it”
Xavier Pichardo organizes his ideas to make a difference into small, medium and large and give examples as to what can be done and how small, medium or large effort it takes to do. He lists examples of picking up trash, eliminating single serve cups and bags and donating ones christmas tree to be part of a new beach dune.
Declan Fleming explains how he and his dad are actively sorting their waste into paper, commingled and non -recyclables on Saturdays, and that they are doing food composting in the yard. He explains that he brings his reusable water bottle every day  and that he pledges to take shorter showers and switching off any light. He has lovely pictures as part of his essay to illustrate his points.
Iona Conneely leads the reader right into the topic why asking for their help in terms of making the world a better place. She concentrates on the evils of plastic straws and how they harm wildlife, turtles in particularly, She offers many solutions that are easy to do and she calls for actions to go around and ask restaurants to stop giving out straws. That sounds like a GREAT idea.
Leyah Perdomo starts her essay by highlighting just how beautiful this Earth is and how littering, hunting and wasting water is damaging this awesome world. She calls the reader to action to help her save the world by describing that anything dumped on the floor gets washed into the oceans and that will hurt animals. She explains the effects of wasting water and hunting animals and ends with the intense plea to make good choices and help save this Earth.
Grade 4
Gemma Gilmartin outlines how she is personally affected when she sees people litter. She shares that some classmates are just emptying their wrappers on the ground and it makes her upset. She emotionally describes how many little things can make a bid difference and give many example such as picking up trash, using reusable bottles instead of single serve ones, She shared a story where she saw her classmates after the plant sale with plastic bags and upon asking them if they really needed the bag, she collected them all to bring back to the plant sale for re-usage. That is very proactive thinking and just maybe, her actions made the plant sale moms think to ask if someone actually needed a bag. She carefully illustrated with colored pencil drawings her ideas. Gemma even founded a Nature Club in 1st grade.
Gabriella Collins focuses on combating litter. She has colorful pictures about litter and how easy it is to just pick it up by just carrying a bag when you go somewhere. She knows that her actions do not stay unnoticed and by herself modeling to pick up, others will follow in this effort. She ends with a call to action by being a change agent in our society.
Carmel Weiner explains what is all recyclable and what can be composted, he lists how these simple actions help the world and how they are important values in his family. His family owns an electric car and he describes how fun it is to drive know that you do not burn gas. He also shares that he never uses paper or plastic ware at home and even though it means he has to do more dishes, he does not mind the extra work because it is worth it to help take care of our planet.
David Lore shares some shocking data with the reader. He observed that there are many plastic water bottles on ball fields and learned through research that in the US every single hour over 4 million plastic bottles are used but only 25% of them make their way into recycling. He shares that he reminds his mother to bring the reusable bags to the store so she would not need plastic bags.
Grade 5
Angela Mathew shares her story of going the extra mile by picking up litter to dispose of it correctly. It made her feel good and she is proud of herself and wants to do it again. She understands how important trees are to life and has planted many seeds to help plants to grow. She shares the story of the Taj Mahal in India having been really dirty but then people came together to clean it up.
Millie Stevenson is leading others to do better. She fixes other students sorting mistakes because she cares. She describes how trash thrown carelessly out of the window can hurt animals and plants.
Sophia Ochoa helps her community by recycling because she knows that when people start to care about recycling, they will also not litter anymore. She realizes that garbage has a terrible effect on communities and it creates pollution and global warming.  Sophia also understand that recycling lowers the need for raw materials and thus helps the earth. She ends by imploring people to recycling more and not be a lazy lizard.
Yuna Ueno draws the reader in by recounting a story of how people that litter often think someone else will come along to pick it up anyways. She researched this issue and realized that according to her information over 75% of our waste can be recycled, but currently the average is only 34%. She lists many good ways of how personal choices of reducing waste can make a huge difference. She gives many example on where we can do the right thing such as at home, on our way to school or where ever we see trash on the ground. It is easy to do and you can find a friend to do it with.

New Rochelle Trinity students write for the environment

The auditorium at New Rochelle Trinity school was packed with excited 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. There was a hushed silence with raw anticipation. Up front were 4 dignitaries and the assistant principal welcoming the kids to the auditorium.

4 weeks ago, Trinity students were invited to participate in a green writing contest. With real money for the winners. And over 75 students rose to the challenge and wrote beautiful essays about the topic ” Everything I do matters!” and it was such a beautiful affair to see and hear the students cheer for the classmates that were called up one by one to receive their certificate and their envelop.

This writing contest is sponsored by the family of the late Nina Chin. Ms Chin was a lifelong educator and believed strongly that good writers are good learners and to encourage her own students to write, she sponsored every year a writing contest from her money. Her family loved this tradition that they chose to continue it in her memory and every year one or two New Rochelle schools are chosen to become recipients of this award. Anna Giordano, from We Future Cycle, the organization that is hired by the New Rochelle school district to bring sustainability programs and education to all 11.500 students is the administer of this award and is always delighted to help schools run this exciting contest.

This year, the essays all centered around the garbage in the oceans and the students all realized that everything they did mattered!

Here are some excerpts of the main points by the winners.

Third Grade
Mariah Valencia has done extensive research into plastics going into the oceans and how they never bio degrade but only brake into smaller plastic pieces until they are micro plastics and she ends with a plea to think before you buy.
Gaby Sanchez pledges to share her knowledge about the need to clean up with others, she will encourage others to be clean, to not throw garbage around so they understand that the world needs to be clean again.
Mateo Rojas shares that he always picks up trash when he sees it because he knows that animals die when they eat plastics. He thinks far in the future, realizing that we only have one world and that we must think about our actions in terms of how it affects our planet long term.
Zaire Spencer explains how sorting in the lunchroom is a big step of making the world a better place and shares about personal plans to create machines that will pick up plastics and make plastics back into fuel to use in cars. Great ideas!
Samin Ashrafi has a beautiful coverpage with a picture of the world and a thermometer in its mouth, showing how our world is being made sick by all the garbage. Samin shows that the motto “everything I do matters” really goes to the heart of doing the RIGHT thing.
Katherine Kann discusses in depth how pollution and garbage causes health problems to not just animals but also to people. She did extensive research and has interesting examples of rivers in India. And then she asks the reader what can be done about the problem and points out that what Trinity students do every day in the lunchroom is the basic solution to the worlds garbage problem. She ends with the powerful call to action. Be Part Of The Solution!
Fourth Grade
Ricardo Mendoza lays out the problem in a very visual way by outlining that our actions of putting materials in the garbage can, leads often to that garbage ending up in the oceans harming wild life. He then lays out ideas of upcycling materials by making creative new products out of bottlecaps. He lays out solution by organizing clean ups and how to create less garbage.
Kristina Sacarello is looking back to the time when Trinity students were not sorting in the lunchroom, and realizes that schools can lead the way and help our Earth little by little. She pledges for all people to come together and not throw wrappers or cans out of the window anymore. She ends by forecasting a dire future of our one planet if we don’t save it.
Fifth Grade
David George writes about hands on solution. He says we can help make the world healthy again by taking all the trash out of the oceans and sorting our land waste. He goes beyond garbage by pointing out that our energy uses and water uses are important too and suggests that people close the faucet when they don’t need water and that they don’t leave the lights on . And he talks extensively about personal choices that affect garbage by what we buy, what we use and how we dispose of it.
Kamryn Tung goes into details on how personal choices make a big difference. He cites how Trinity student divert everyday 97% of their trash by simply sorting it and he points out that being vocal and spreading the word about how these simple every day activities make a real difference is where the power of change lies.
Lincey Basile goes in detail of her personal deeds to save the world., She takes short showers to save water and energy, she spreads the word about how important recycling is, she picks up trash, recycles at school every day and stop using single use things, rather use a real metal fork and wash it. She ends up by underlining that many little changes make a big change. Way to go.
Lennon Dascal starts out by engaging the reader with the simple question. “does my little straw hurt anybody? It won’t make a difference. And then he explains how everything matters because it is never just one little straw, it is always many many many straws., He describes that in his house only reusables are used as it is so important to reuse rather then to throw plastics away that will never go away. Because there is no “away” on this Earth. Wise words
Kelis Gardner offers many examples of what to reusable options we have that will not result in trash. She lists examples on how to be green inside and outside of school by picking up garbage and sorting correctly and she explains in detail the horrible effects that plastics in our oceans have on wild life. She ends with a call to action :DO NOT USE PLASTIC ANYMORE.
Andrea Storvig Newson describes how she and her friend went to a picnic in the park and suddenly realized just how much trash was around and that made them spring into action to clean up. Feeling good about ones good deeds is the basis to repeat good deeds and that is what she pledge will do. Andrea also shared a story of finding a bird in the bush that was all entangled in a fishing line. She brought the animal to the vet and it was saved, but she underlines that even though this bird was lucky to get saved many others are not that lucky and that is why we have to tackle pollution.
Michelle Zheng stats facts about how much trash is being produced per person and how it multiplies through the population to astronomical amounts. Michelle realizes she has the power to teach and influence others to make changes through small adjustments. Because reducing by reusing, recycling is not hard to do. Yes, students like Michelle have tremendous power to influence others to do the right thing.

Recycling from 3500 students in 2 days at New Rochelle HS

New Rochelle HS is in its second year running the We Future Cycle recycling program and it has become the new normal to sort. Watching HS students coming up to sort their waste, while chatting with the friends, without hesitation and without issue is the shining light on how the power of one can transform a system.

7 years ago, Anna Giordano saw the mountain of garbage coming out of each lunchroom and how mindless the students were when discarding all of their lunch in one garbage can, no matter if the milk was opened or the apple had a bite taken out, and decided to do something about it. Starting with data collection, a survey of all the accumulated garbage (all 35 bags) revealed that most is either recyclable or compostable if it was just sorted out. So, with some trial and error the lunchroom sorting station was developed and kids were taught to sort.

And now, New Rochelle is boasting 11,500 students that sort their lunch waste every day, generating compost and recycling and practically no trash. As a matter of fact, the entire district only generates around 44 lbs from all 10 lunchrooms combined, that is truly remarkable.

While most people might look at these pictures and think….eeek garbage, I can only see the beauty of sorted recyclables and I know that this was done because a generation of kids now cares!

New Rochelle Trinity Lunchroom Cleaner empowering students

Meet Brian, New Rochelle Trinity’s long term lunchroom cleaner. He is running one of the busiest lunchrooms in the district with about 150 kids per lunch period by himself. And it does not phase him. Calmly he keeps everything clean and organized and the kids love him.

Trinity is one of the first New Rochelle schools to run the We Future Cycle program and has never wavered and by now, the entire school population has never seen anything  but calmly getting up, walking to the recycling station and sorting their lunch waste into excess liquid, recyclable, non-recyclable and compostable, thus reducing garbage by 97%.

Brian has been helping with this process and thanks to his friendly and inviting attitude, he has student helpers every day, clamoring for the job. Brian’s only rule is that the students have to have eaten first and then everybody gets a chance to help. Sometimes he has more helpers than space, but he is a wonderful sport about it.

This kind of adult support is what makes the Trinity program so special and sustainable, there is buy-in from all adults and it permeates through the building.

Thank you, Brian for all you do.

New Rochelle Trinity 1st Graders learn about Worms and love them

Walking into a classroom of 1st graders, armed with a bin of worms is a fun thing. Students usually squirm a bit, are slightly afraid and timidly even voice that feeling, but in general, get engaged very quickly to learn about why wriggly, slimy worms are so important to our world.

Students learn that worms are living beings that breathe through their skin. I enjoy watching them looking in disbelief at their skin trying to grasp the concept. Worms can eat enormous amounts , half of their body weight every day. To demonstrate that to the students I have them get up and put their hand at slightly above their waste and ask them to look down upon their legs and to imagine to have THAT much to eat every day.

After learning how they move, what muscles can do, how worms reproduce (by laying cocoons that contain 2 to 3 live worms, just in case the intrepid reader of this post was interested in these details), students had a chance to get up close and personal with a handful of worms.

image4Checking out to see the castings in the translucent tail sections of the worm gave way to great excitement and when we found the mother load of cocoons, the students were beside themselves with excitement.

Teaching students that every living being has important jobs to do and without these jobs done, everybody is in trouble is an important life lesson for kids to learn. All worms ended up with names. Jeffrey seemed to be the favorite. Students wrote afterwards what they learned about worms and they all agreed that worms are our friends.

 

Adopt A School To Provide Environmental Programming

Help us bring environmental education programs to schools.

We Future Cycle is providing challenging environmental programs to schools, all as stand alone curriculum add-on programs to teach students about how their every day actions can make a big difference.

  1. Environmental Footprint of Aluminum: (grade 5-9) Do you know where aluminum comes from?  It comes from Bauxite, a type of stone that contains various alumina minerals. Mining for bauxite involves cutting down trees in rain forests, destroying animal habitats and causing water and soil erosion. Students learn in detail how aluminum is created, and also the importance of recycling aluminum because it can be used over and over again.
  2. Science of Compost: (grade 4-7) After learning to source-separate their food and paper waste in the lunchroom, students know that the material is trucked away to be turned into compost, but how does the transformation happen?  In classroom presentations including slides and video, students will learn the science of mixing “greens” with “browns” with the appropriate amount of moisture to create nutrient rich compost. They will also learn about how putting organic matter in landfills contributes to climate change.
  3. Vermiculture: (grade K – 3) There are number of ways that organic waste (food and paper) are broken down to nourish our soil, and one is vermiculture, or worm composting.  In classroom-by-classroom presentation from a WFC expert, students will learn how worms are used to decompose organic waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material that can provide nutrients for sustainable plant growth. Students will learn that every living being has an important job to do and after getting up and close to a bunch of worms, most kids end up naming their worms. (Jeffrey seems to be the name of choice, and sometimes “wormy”)
  4. Planting a Trash Garden: (grade K-3) Students are learning about what is organic and inorganic and they learn how materials interact with the environment over time. It opens their eyes to the litter problem surrounding them as well as make them compassionate about being a change agent. A scientific experiment makes this very tangible for the students.
  5. Water Water Water: (grade 5-10) Students will learn about water, how it gets into the homes and what happens to it when it leaves, they learn the working of a Waste Water Treatment Plants, touch upon Waste Water to Drinking Water, Desalination and what the hype about bottled water is about. A water filtration activity for the students caps the lesson off.
  6. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch:(grade 5 – 12) Students are learning about the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the role of ocean currents, and how this affects wild life and the food chain. They also learn about prevention and mitigation in process. This program is very much centered around how people rise up to meet these challenges, it is meant to show students that nobody is too small to make a big difference. Never underestimate the power of one.
  7. Milk Cartons: (grade 3-6) This program explores packaging over time and how single serve packaging came about. Milk cartons are prevalent in any lunchroom in America, but few students know how a milk carton is made.  Students will learn how paperboard and waterproof plastic are blended to make a liquid-proof container, and thus why recycling cartons is a unique process.  Note that Westchester County only started recycling milk cartons in May 2016 and this program will aid to get the information back into the homes.
  8. E-waste/Electronic Equipment: (grade 6-11) What is E-waste and what does it take to make electronic devices that end up as e-waste. How are the devices disposed off and what are the human, environmental and social ramifications of E-Waste. This is also covering jobs in the recycling industry and how students can become involved in innovative technologies.
  9. 9. “Did you know” poster lunchroom education scavenger hunt (grade 3-6): this is an indoor recess activity to make students aware of the environmental foot print of materials they use every day, often without a second thought like straws, plastic bags etc. Searching for clues and filling in blanks is fun to do and they are learning without even noticing it.
  10. 10. The social and environmental impact of textiles: (grade 8-12) this program explores where clothing comes from, what it takes to make them, the social and environmental costs attached to clothing and why textile recycling is so important.
  11. 11. Galapagos, how islands deal with garbage: (grade 8 – 12) Exploring how other nations deal with waste, highlighting Galapagos.
  12. What is recycling? (grade 2-6) What happens to the material we put into the recycling bin, where does it go and what becomes of it. Learning how scientific concepts of gravity, magnetism, anti current, friction and resistance are used to sort materials for recycling. This program also focuses on reduce and reuse education
  13. What is Fracking (grades 8-12) an introduction into energy exploration and the environmental consequences to the oil and gas industry. What does it take to keep society going? Glimpsing into oil and gas exploration, as well as introducing renewable energy sources and how each student can make a difference by being energy literate.
  14. Coal and its environmental footprint (grade 8-12) This presentation examines how coal is mined and processed to be burned to make electricity, it describes the human , social and environmental costs. Renewable energy sources are introduced and contrasted.