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.

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Rye Middle School Diverts 96% waste on first day of We Future Cycle Program

Rye Middle School joined all of the Rye Elementary Schools in implementing the We Future Cycle recycling-composting program.  The launch was a huge success as all of the incoming 6th graders and most of their 7th grade school mates have done the program in their elementary school, they easily fell back into the routine of quickly sorting their waste. And 8th grade matched their stride with great enthusiasm.

Rye MS usually generated 140 lbs of waste from about 1000 students, in an impressive pile of 12 bags, all carried out one by one by the custodial staff, leaving behind a trail of dripping milk.

But no more, the We Future Cycle program separates liquids from packaging, and food from packaging. Easy quick movements to empty and sort.  And the results are always the same. A stunning 96% diversion rate into recycling and composting. Only 6 lbs or 4% of the 140 lbs was non-recyclable and will have to be transported for incineration by Westchester County.  That of course also means that 96% of the material is not adding to our air pollution, and we will retain the resources by recycling and composting them. Truly a win win on all sides.

And the numbers are adding up. A daily 136 lbs  reduction in waste over the course of a school week is a 680 lbs reduction, and over the course of a school year, a  whopping 12.25 TON reduction. That translated into volume and garbage bags would fill a school auditorium. 2200 bags of materials, diverted away from the garbage. Truly something to be proud of. And that is just one of the Rye schools!

The RMS community, led by principal Dr. Ann Edwards, were instrumental in achieving this result.

White Plains MAS students learn about inorganic materials in our environment

White Plains MAS students are old hands at sorting their lunchroom and classroom waste. White Plains School district joined the We Future Cycle recycling program 4 years ago and now most of their elementary school population has never experienced anything else but stepping up to the recycling station and carefully separating their food waste from the recyclable and non-recyclable packaging material. White Plains schools are diverting 1850 lbs every day into recycling and composting streams. A 97% reduction of garbage through diversion.

Even the littlest ones are now really good at it. They cannot peer over the top of the bin yet, but -boy- do they know which bin is the right one for which material.

Every September and October, We Future Cycle hands-on trains K students, as well as refreshes the older grades on why we are sorting our waste. Keeping the environmental energy up is key for a vibrant and functioning lunchroom recycling system. Your hands can function much better when your heart is guiding them.

Recently, 2nd graders learned about what is bio degradable and what is not. Learning about how organic and inorganic materials interact with environmental factors such as rain and light is crucial to understanding the problems of the longevity of inorganic packaging material in our environment.

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Examining how water interacts with organic materials

Through a scientific experiment students could learn first hand how organic and inorganic materials differ in their reaction to water. It was a messy affair, having 23 students dipping materials into water and rubbing it between their fingers to simulate environmentally induced friction, but they got it! Inorganic material as litter in our environment is a huge problem.

When asked what students could do to address the litter problem, great ideas came bubbling up. Picking up litter, doing trash treasure hunts, showing friends how to be better, bringing snacks in reusable containers to the park…..  These students were fired up to save this world. Seriously way to go!

White Plains Church St Principal proudly holds stacks of “green essays”

White Plains Church St elementary school was chosen this year as the proud recipient of the coveted Nina Chin Green Writing Grant. Students of grade 3 through grade 5 were invited to voluntarily write an essay on how they personally can make a difference in this world.

Nina Chin was a lifelong educator and she believed that writing is the key to being a better reader and a better person. Every year she sponsored from her own money a writing contest among her students. Upon her passing, her children decided to carry on this lovely tradition and have sponsored one school in Westchester every year.

Over 50 students rose to the challenge and Myra Castillo, Principal, is holding proudly the stacks of essays from her students.

These essays are right now on the desk of two retired teachers that are “judging” them. Ten students will be proud winners of a nice envelope for their work. We cannot wait until the celebration, that is soon to come. Watch this space!

New Rochelle Davis International Dinner Goes Green

This is the gym of the New Rochelle Davis Elementary school. Beautifully decorated thanks to the tireless PTA. The entire school was buzzing with the excitement of the International Dinner. Hallways walls were floor to ceiling decorated with the artwork of students depicting traditional things of their homes.

Tables weighed down with delicious foods of all corners of this earth lined the perimeter of the gym and in the middle of this all was one recycling station. Not tons of trash cans as it is often the case for these events.

Davis Elementary school under the leadership of Anthony Brambola and Laurie Marinaro have fully embraced going green and are actively supporting bringing recycling to all school events.

And parents had the chance to sort their waste just like their kids do every day. It was very charming seeing a Kindergarten student pulling mom behind her to explain carefully what item goes in what bin. And then she declared with a smile that mom now saved the world!

Yes, every one can save the world, one every day activity at a time.

Parents needed a bit of encouragement to actually look at the signage, which clearly outlined where recyclables, compostables and trash needed to be placed. But of course, once they got it, they were enthusiastic about it.

Saving the world is really about education and that small changes of every day behavior makes a huge difference. This event would have generated a whopping 20 bags of trash if we had not sorted it. Instead through sorting we had 4 bags of commingled, 3 bags of foodwaste to be composted and only one bag of trash (most of which were bunched up plastic table clothes…..mmmmh, lets switch to fabric table cloths for next year!)

Davis Elementary School is a shining example of how a whole community can be educated to become green..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Recycling Cans in Action at New Rochelle High School

20180517_162104Implementing a Recycling Program in a building with 3500 students is a daunting experience. It is a mini city. How does one get these many people to change their wicked ways?

We Future Cycle has done just that this school year and now 3500 students and hundreds of teachers and other adult staff are fully trained to separate their packaging from food waste so each can go into recycling or composting. Garbage was reduced from 100 bags every day, to about 2. All the rest of the material is sorted into recyclable packaging and compostable organics.

All 4 lunchrooms are successfully participating and all classrooms are sporting paper, commingled and trash receptacles, reducing garbage even further.

The last frontier were the outside areas and We Future Cycle and the high school grounds staff are tackling this problem now. Green recycling bins displaying colorful informational stickers as well as an educational board explaining the stunning economics of recycling are popping up next to the outdoor garbage cans.

And today, we took a peek to get the answer to the question. Do high school students transfer learned behavior to other life situations when offered the easy logistics. And the answer was a very satisfying. YES!

Check out this wonderfully sorted content of recycling bin. I promise, I did not mitigate before taking the picture!

NYC Sophomores Write Anti Pollution Legislative Bill

This spring, a class of sophomores at Avenues: The World School in Manhattan, New
York City, studied and researched the detrimental effects of carbon emission and plastic waste.

The excessive plastic waste that humans generate can have many devastating consequences, from contaminating various bodies of water and harming wildlife, to polluting beaches and negatively affecting human health. Avenues’ Class of 2020 sought to make an effort to spread awareness about this issue and, ultimately reduce the waste that humans generate in their daily lives. In order to accomplish this goal and actually create a change, students decided to focus on a specific aspect that could be changed — one that is realistic, familiar and tangible.

This involves the excessive plastic consumption by New York public schools when serving lunches to students. Specifically, the target was attempting to eliminate the usage of Styrofoam trays in school cafeterias, incentivizing schools to use compostable materials instead. Styrene, the main component of polystyrene, is classified as a potential carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The material can take up to one million years to decompose in a landfill — making it a primary pollutant, especially since the material often leaks into water, where animals ingest the dangerous chemicals that polystyrene effuses. New York City public school systems consume approximately 850,000 single-use polystyrene trays per day and every one of those trays negatively affects the environment.

Thus, Avenues students believed that a necessary measure to take was to promote the
usage of compostable trays, which decompose into a natural environment without leaving any traces of toxicity in the soil and have no adverse effects on the planet, rather than Styrofoam.

Many efforts to reduce polystyrene usage have already been made in school districts across the United States, having beneficial effects. Polystyrene was initially outlawed in New York City in July 2015, but this ban was then overturned, backed by one of the largest manufacturers of polystyrene containers: the Restaurant Action Alliance and the Dart Container Corporation.

However, it was reinstated in November 2017, as part of an effort to reach Mayor Bill de
Blasio’s One NYC zero-waste goal by 2030. Avenues sophomores hope to spread this initiative to the rest of New York, beyond the confines of the five boroughs of New York City.

After deciding to reform the process by which school lunches are packaged and served to
students in public schools in order to help make New York more sustainable, the class composed a legislation that incentivized schools to stop using non-biodegradable trays to serve lunches and replace them with those that are compostable. This was achieved by imposing a 5% tax deduction for school lunch that is served using compostable materials. The legislation created by the students states that the deduction will decrease by 1% every year for the first five years that this law is in place, thereby creating an incentive for schools to use compostable materials sooner rather than later.

This legislation, which was subsequently referred to Paul D. Tonko, U.S. Representative of New York’s 20th congressional district, presents a realistic way to become more environmentally conscientious and reduce excessive generation of non-compostable waste.
The protocol described by the legislation, which aims to take effect on the first day of
August 2018 (prior to the start of the 2018-2019 academic year) aims to further efforts that have already been taken to promote sustainability and permanently force all schools to use biodegradable materials at all times — thereby decreasing their carbon footprints altogether, rather than using harmful, non-compostable materials. Prior to writing the actual bill, the team at Avenues researched ways to make a difference, contacting New York public school districts and inquiring about their lunch policies and, specifically, whether they served lunches on Styrofoam trays. Depending on their district, the policies to which schools adhered seemed to vary slightly and many schools seemed to be moving away from Styrofoam trays in their cafeterias, although some still used them.

For instance, students spoke with representatives from every public school
district in White Plains, Rye and New Rochelle, New York and each had implemented a program to only use biodegradable materials in their lunches, rather than plastic which is used in public schools throughout much of the United States.

Each of the districts credited their program to We Future Cycle, a 501c3 charitable organization that guides public school districts in New York towards sustainability and encourages them to generate as little excessive waste as possible, in a conscious effort to, “create a generation of children that are actively involved in recycling and take responsibility for their daily actions,” as their mission states. Instead of working with local congressmen and the government, We Future Cycle contacts each individual district and works with schools to determine feasible ways to reduce waste generation in daily life, such as the processes of vermiculture and teaching children and parents how to pack waste-free lunches. The organization establishes partnerships with others who have developed programs to “bring otherwise non-recyclable items into reusable channels.” Furthermore, We Future Cycle strives to teach students to be responsible and informed consumers, by offering several educational programs directed towards a variety of ages. The founder of this non-profit, Anna Giordano, stated that she started this organization after she witnessed the excessive amount of waste created by her children’s school and suddenly became aware that she needed to take action.

Today, forty  schools in Westchester, New York participate in We Future Cycle and
several organizations in the area endorse the charity, or are affiliated in some way. This number is steadily growing as its outreach expands.

We Future Cycle hopes to empower students, the future of the United States, to become leaders in their community and have their voices heard.
The organization implements these beliefs in children from young ages, so that by the time they are older, they are environmentally-conscious and able to truly make the world a better place in the long-term. Organizations like We Future Cycle and the Avenues sophomores are collaborating to continue their missions of spreading awareness about climate change and the threats of pollution.

As these issues becomes more prevalent in society every day, it is becoming increasingly
important to be informed. In doing this, more opportunities are being created, creating grounds for case studies on these issues in the future. These organizations illuminate that major changes are not what is necessary and, small-scale lifestyle changes such as recycling scrap paper, bottles and cans, or composting leftovers, can actually make a world of difference.

If people are to recognize the extent of the damage that excessive waste generation causes to the environment and themselves, they are more likely to revise their daily routines to become more environmentally-conscious and begin to think, rather than carelessly discarding materials into a landfill where they will remain for millenia. For further information on ways to become more environmentally-conscious, explore We Future Cycle’s website and to learn more about Avenues’ Class of 2020 and their work in forming their own legislation to help the planet, click here.

~ Isabel Mudannayake and Angelo Orciuoli, representatives of the Avenues’ Class of
2020

New Rochelle Barnard PTA Makes Field Day Waste Free

Field Day is a really exciting event. Hoards of kids, running, jumping, cheering for each other, screaming in agony over a loss or celebrating loudly for a win. Now imagine this chaos with only the littlest of our students, the Pre-K through 2nd graders at Barnard.

20180524_120355Today was field day at Barnard, and the PTA made this event completely waste free. Usually, the place is littered with ice pop sleeves, plastic cups, wrappers and empty bottles, but not here, not at Barnard. Thanks to the PTA president, who fully embraces what We Future Cycle has started in the school.

Barnard has implemented the We Future Cycle Recycling program 3 years ago and thanks to a fantastic lunchroom custodian, is consistently at less than one pound (!!!) of waste out of a lunchroom with nearly 300 kids. These 3 and 4 year olds may not be able to look over the edge of the recycling bin, but they sure know what material belongs in what bin. And when asked will proudly pipe up that they are recycling and saving the world every day.

The PTA President recently learned about We Future Cycle’s efforts to bring source separating and sustainable purchasing to all school based events so that learned sorting  behavior can be applied in other life situations as well and he immediately ran with it by making field day completely waste free. Way to go!

Kids were treated to water melon in napkins, that they carefully dropped into the compost bin when done. Voila! 20180524_120351