New Rochelle Junior becomes Environmental Activist

Meet Anthony Baker, a Junior at New Rochelle HS. He can remember that at some point in his elementary school times at Trinity elementary school, We Future Cycle got hired and eliminated Styrofoam trays from the schools and started the recycling program that is running in all schools. By now, it is normal behavior for students to walk up to the station and quickly sort their lunch waste into recyclable packaging, non recyclable materials and organic materials to be composted.

Anthony has recently decided to become more active and fight for even more change. He went to a recent Board of Education meeting to present the need to remove even more single use plastics from our lunchrooms.

Recently, he wrote this letter to his former elementary school principal. These are powerful words and I asked his permission to post his letter publicly.

Dear Mr. Hildebrand, 
My name is Anthony Baker, I am a junior at New Rochelle High School. You may or may not remember me, I spoke at the board of education meeting at Albert Leonard. I went to Trinity and I am extremely passionate about the environment.
I consider Trinity to be the birthplace of my passion, for it was there that I was taught how to recycle, how to reduce, and how to reuse. Trinity was the first place I was exposed to environmental issues and it was the first place that I became aware of the planet on which we live. I remember watching a brainpop video in my second grade CILA class about climate change; I remember feeling scared, and hopeless. 
I remember when I used to be served lunch on styrofoam trays in the Trinity cafeteria, I always used to use my plastic fork to poke holes in my tray. I realize now that this whole picture was just wrong. Now our cafeterias are void of styrofoam but this picture has two parts. Not just styrofoam but also plastic. Plastic is the cancer of our dying world. Our planet is infested with tumors of plastic, slowly choking her organs, day after day after day. I wonder how much longer our planet can even sustain itself with our plastic output. But this factor of fear, this image of destruction, this is what deters so many from action. We all fall into the closed mentality that it is a problem that is too big to fix; we feel guilty, we feel like victims. And at the worst, we are forced to recognize our own error. Our collective human error. We share a sense of mutual guilt with one another. We are afraid to be called out and we are afraid to call out. But now more than ever, we need to call out. We need to scream, we need to shout. 
When I spoke to the board of education about plastic output I spoke with genuine concern. I spoke because I was scared. I spoke because I saw something happening that was wrong. And I speak now because I continue to see a practice that is detrimental to ecological stability and the welfare of our human ecosystem.
This practice is the distribution of plastic utensils. I believe it is time that we at the very least consider the thought of a world in which New Rochelle Public Schools do not supply students with plastic utensils. A world where we use metal utensils not just at home, but at school too. 
This is not an ambitious idea, it is not a new idea, it is simply the way things used to be. It may seem outlandish to some, but that is simply because we have become accustomed to a world of single use and a world of disposability. 
With this, I am asking that you consider a motion for a plastic utensil free Trinity Elementary School. I believe that we have to start somewhere. No matter how small the change is, it is still change. And every step further into the direction of progress gives my generation a little more hope for our future. One school sets the precedent for another, 2 schools set the precedent for a district. A district sets the precedent for a county. And a county sets the precedent for a state. It is a domino effect that must begin somewhere, and it has already begun in a small town in Minnesota. I am hoping that you will be open to consider change. 
Styrofoam vanished because someone was brave enough to call for it to be removed. I am hoping the same can happen with plastic. 
In the end, I am simply a kid. A junior at New Rochelle High School. But I will not rest, I will not be silent until I see change. 
Sincerely,
Anthony Baker 
On behalf of my humanity 🌲

Mt Vernon Grimes school has only 8 lbs left for garbage, a 96% diversion rate

Letter to Grimes School Parents:
We are so excited to share with you that Grimes Elementary School has taken a giant leap toward reducing our environmental footprint and is going green. The students are on the forefront of this exciting new project.
Last week, the children learned in class by class presentations that over 90% of their lunch waste is actually either compostable or recyclable, if it was just sorted out. They also learned about the problems around garbage and that there is no “away” on this earth, when we talk about “throwing something away”. They learned that Westchester’s garbage goes to the incinerator in Peekskill and gets burnt and creates air pollution.
Your children might share with you as their parents that most packaging made out of glass, all hard and rigid plastics, cartons and juice boxes and metals like soda can, aluminum foil and soup/coffee cans are fully recyclable if they are just placed into the correct bin. And to their biggest surprise, students learned that even their left over milk and left over food can be recycled. Only soft plastic such as chip bags, wrappers, plastic baggies, juice pouches are non recyclable and have to be discarded into the trash.
We Future Cycle, a 501 c3 not for profit company, was hired recently by the district to bring this program to all of Mt Vernon schools. The organisation has successfully implemented environmental education and recycling programs in many Westchester school districts . And Grimes is the 5th Mount Vernon school to implement the program.
Your children are now learning a new breakfast and lunch routine, and they took to it like fish to water. Instead of throwing all of their lunchwaste into one big garbage pail, thus generating over 15 bags of trash every single lunch, they are now walking up to one recycling station and are carefully emptying their containers and sorting them into recycling, compost or non-recyclable.
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daily garbage bags outside the school before the We Future Cycle program
On their first day, Grimes has reduced its garbage from 189 lbs down to a mere 8 lbs, a 96% reduction. Please join me in celebrating this wonderful achievement for our children and their future in a greener world.
This is AP Lucille Martir, easily holding up the single quarter bag of non recyclable garbage left, after the students sorted their waste for the first time.
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AP Lucille Martir easily holding the remaining 8 lbs of trash, a 96% reduction

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Vernon Graham school diverts 97% of its waste into compost and recycling

Mount Vernon Graham school used to produce 15 bags of trash every day, and custodial staff had to bring each bag through a long underground tunnel , up some stairs to the street. That alone was a good work out.

20191205_141947Well, check out Dr McGregor , Principal of Graham school, lifting the remaining garbage with one arm.

Graham school just recently joined the We Future Cycle recycling program, the 6th of Mount Vernon schools and it diverted a record of 97% of its waste into compost and recycling. A mere 5 lbs were non recyclable soft plastics.

Students learned in auditorium and classroom presentations that there is no “away” in this world. They learned about garbage, pollution and how it all effects us right here, every day. Shocked faces looked at birds with their bellies full of plastic because people threw their waste carelessly away.

Sixth, 7th and 8th grade classes were together in the auditorium and it was so quiet one could hear a pin drop and collective moaning arose when they saw pictures of how plastic in the environment effects animals. I actually had a 7th grader come to me and hug me and thank me for showing her how she can make a difference. It was very heartwarming.

We Future Cycle is usually 2 weeks in the lunchroom actively helping the students to learn about what materials get diverted and we use that time to educate them even more. From day one, we had excited helpers and students that came to me to share how they are now making a difference every day.

Graham students are now the generation of kids that cares. Way to go!

Mt Vernon Lincoln 2nd graders study material interaction in the environment

What happens to stuff when we throw it “away”?

Walking through the fictional example of sitting on a park bench, eating a sandwich and throwing the left over and the plastic bag into the environment, students learned about how organic and inorganic materials interact with water and wind.

Students learned about the detrimental effects of littering to our animal world, in particular the marine life. Students reacted with utter shock to learn that the litter on our streets goes unfiltered with the rain water into our oceans and there it is mistaken for food by marine life that will die a painful and slow death.

Students pledged to never litter and to be the change agents of their community to educate them about caring for this world.

A fun, but slightly, messy science experiment capped off the lesson and students were asked to write about 3 things they learned.

Mt Vernon Lincoln students truly learned that their actions matter, every single day.

F.E. Bellows in Rye Neck Launches We Future Cycle!

We Future Cycle had a successful launch at F.E. Bellows Elementary School, which serves 3rd-5th graders, in September 2019.  The Rye Neck School District is one of the most enthusiastic and all-in communities in which we have launched the program! The PTSA spearheaded the introduction of We Future Cycle into the school district, and generously funded all components of the launch, including the weekly compost pick-up. Principal Mike Scarantino was an eager advocate for the program, as he had shown the documentary “Straws” to the 5th graders, educating them about the overuse of and destruction caused by single-use plastics. A number of students already compost at home, either in their backyards or through the Village’s residential food scrap program. Starting off with a mindful and supportive team makes the transition into lunchroom composting and recycling so much easier.

Head custodian Phil Reda and his team were very helpful in optimizing the lunchroom set-up. We started with one station, but as the kids were eager to run out to recess right after lunch, the custodial team asked about setting up a second station to make the sorting process even quicker – no problem at all! We also adjusted the bin order and bin size to make it easier for the custodial team to manage the recycling and composting at the end of the lunch periods. Each school is a little different, and the We Future Cycle team monitors the lunch periods at the school for 2 weeks after launch, giving everyone ample time to adjust and make any adjustments necessary to make the lunchroom flow smooth.

Aides Janice, Franka, Vilma, and Lisa, and the food service employees were all committed to making the system work as well. As in most school lunchrooms, students are given spork packets wrapped in plastic, ketchup packets, apple slices in packets, etc., and many are trashed without even being opened!  At Bellows, students were automatically given 2 ketchup packets when they had a meal, such as chicken fingers or burgers, where they might want ketchup. In these instances we collected unopened packets and found that 75 – yes, SEVENTY-FIVE – ketchup packets were being trashed without even being opened, in a school of about 350 students.  As well, on pizza day, students were allowed to go up to food service to get a second slice – but were required to take a second tray.

Both the aides and food service employees found these practices – distributing ketchup packets and requiring second trays for additional pizza slices – to be unnecessarily wasteful once they saw how much trash was being generated. The food service employees went to the food service director to ask if practices could change…and they did! Food service decided to switch to pump bottles once the ketchup and syrup packets ran out, and they disbanded the requirement for second trays for pizza. This demonstrates how important it is to talk to the folks “on the ground” in the lunchroom – they really see what is going on and how much waste is created every day. They have excellent suggestions about how to reduce food waste but are not always empowered to make such changes. The We Future Cycle program can help facilitate these discussions in schools to teach everyone to be more mindful about the substantial waste generated in schools every day.

As always, the results were incredible! The three grades generated 62.5 lbs of lunch leftovers in one day, and 92% of lunchroom leftovers were diverted into liquid, commingled recycling, and composting streams. The breakdown was as follows.
Liquid: 6lbs (10% of total weight)
Commingled (hard plastics and aluminum for recycling): 10lbs (16%)
Compost (food and paper): 37lbs (59%)
Trays (also will be composted): 4.5lbs (7%)
Trash: 5lbs (8%)

In addition to the lunchroom sorting, Principal Scarantino wanted to do composting in the hallways immediately. Students bring any snack leftovers out to the compost buckets in the hallway stations. This eliminates the need for liners in the trash cans in the classrooms, as there is no liquid or food waste in the classroom bins.

Lastly, the PTSA manages a garden at the school, and the students help keep it tidy. Now with the food scrap compost bins on site, the students are able to compost the yard waste as well by placing it in the bins!

We are so happy to have Bellows on board and look forward to our continued work in the Rye Neck Schools!

 

Mt Vernon Lincoln students examine soil samples to learn why composting is so important

Mt Vernon Lincoln school just joined the We Future Cycle recycling program and reduced their waste by 97%, diverting all organic waste into composting and all appropriate packaging into recycling. Students enthusiastically joined as they realized that their personal small, every day actions such as sorting can make sure a big difference.

Principal Ms Jones and AP Mr Molina immediately took advantage of the  district sponsored optional environmental education opportunities and we were invited to present to the Regents Bio students. Students learned about what happens when food waste is landfilled versus composted. It drew gasps of astonishment from them, as they had never thought about how the legacy of landfills remains and poisons us to this day with the methane they release into the air. Students learned about how easy it is to instead compost food waste and other organic matter and how that soil is full of life and nutrients.

A broader discussion ensued about how healthy soil is intimately connected to a wealth of a nation and to general health of people. Students received three soil samples as lab to examine them and make determinations on how these soils might hold water, support plant growth and support life in general.

Students all agreed that generating through composting  a dark nutrient rich soil that supports plant growth and life in general is much preferred to landfilling organics. They were offered the opportunity to write an essay about what they learned and the best essay out of each class will be awarded a certificate and a small cash prize.

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Mt Vernon Lincoln Ave school reduces garbage by 97%

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Meet Mt Vernon Lincoln Avenue Elementary School Principal Dr Jones and AP Mr Molina. See how casually Dr Jones can lift the only 6.5 lbs of garbage that are remaining after her entire school of nearly 700 students are done with lunch. Usually, an unsightly pile of bags weighing over 218 lbs are found on the sidewalk next to the school for removal, but no more. 20191015_101801

Lincoln Ave students just learned all about garbage and how simple sorting out all recyclable and compostable materials is the solution. We Future Cycle presenters came to the classrooms and opened their eyes to the problems around garbage and that their own every day behaviors can make a big difference.

And every student agreed that it was easy and the right thing to do. Already the first day, we had lots and lots of students that wanted to get involved to make a difference and Lincoln Ave school will now create a green team to foster environmental thinking among the students.

Mt Vernon Williams Students reduce garbage to just one bag

Edwards Williams Elementary School in Mount Vernon has just implemented the We Future Cycle recycling program and reduced its garbage to just one bag, down from the regular pile. All the rest was recyclable, compostable, excess liquids or untouched food.20190927_084232

Students learned in class by class presentations how their personal actions can make such a difference. The simple act of putting a packaging material in the correct bin means that this material can have a second life.

Students learned that instead of throwing all their lunch waste in the garbage, if they just sorted it into recyclable packaging, compostables and non-recyclables, over 90% can be re-utilized. Shocked faces greeted images of landfills and incinerators. Nobody really ever thought what happened to garbage once they threw it “away”.

Learning that even their left over milk and their left over sandwich can be recycled was quite eye opening to these students. unnamed (7)They were hesitant when offered to smell compost as they still had food waste as a negative thought in their head. But after the first, courageous kid took the proverbial nasal plunge and took a sniff and declared with a big smile : It smells just like dirt and nature!, they all smelled it and agreed that it makes so much more sense to compost our food waste into soil, then treating it as trash and either landfilling or burning it.

Williams students are all fired up to help save the world and from day one on, the building took ownership of the program.

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We Future Cycle pushing for more sustainable options to feed students

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of students to care and to reduce garbage as much as possible. This is a 3 pronged approach. We work with the schools directly to set up logistics to allow for separation of materials so these can actually be recycled and composted.

We also present to the entire school community in order to create behavioral change across all players in the building. Changing on how we discard what we deem not to need anymore is a learning curve as it involves a change of heart. Only if people know what becomes of the material that is carelessly discarded, they start to become responsible for their actions, as small as where they place their empty coffee cup.

And lastly, we are working with food service to identify areas where we can replace unneccessary packaging with bulk.

We are very proud that our vocal opposition to EPS trays (Styrofoam) has now resulted in all of Westchester’s school districts to replace them with a compostable alternative.

We are also fighting against pre-wrapped Spork packages that contain a straw, napkin and spork, all wrapped in plastic. Our studies revealed that 70% of all students do not use the spork nor the napkin, thus discarding the materials unused.

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Unused spork package components after lunch

We are also working to replace all single serve condiment pouches with bulk squeeze bottles. Training students to only take what they intend to consume is part and parcel for this effort.

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Ketchup pouches taken but not consumed from one lunch period

We are working to make the school lunch world a greener place, one lunchroom at a time.

The bigger fight is to get washable flatware back into the lunchrooms.

 

Mt Vernon Columbus students compost and recycle now, 96% trash reduction

Every morning, Mt Vernon garbage trucks stop in front of each school to lug black trash bag over black trash bags into the hopper. Columbus Elementary School is usually sporting a bulging row of bags, sometimes already attacked by vermin and bags ripped over with unsightly trash spilling out.

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But no more!

Columbus just joined today the We Future Cycle recycling program and in class by class and auditorium setting presentations all 500 students, ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade learned about the problems around garbage.

They learned that by simply sorting their waste into organic, recyclable and non recyclable, most can be diverted out of the waste stream. And they took to it like fish to water. On day one, students diverted 181 lbs of material into recycling and composting, that would  otherwise have gone into the trash. A whopping reduction of 96%!

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So, instead of that row of trash bags, Columbus is only sporting this one single, very light bag of 7.5 lbs. THAT IS IT!

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Students said, that they had never thought past the garbage can, the stuff  just magically disappeared at some point. But now, they realize that their own actions, as simple as placing an empty milk carton into the recycling container can make a difference. Students learned that not just bottles and cans are recyclable, but also all glass, milk and juice cartons, all metals including Aluminum foil, and all hard packaging made of out of plastics, with the exception of Expanded Polystyrene (Styrofoam).

Students were surprised to hear that even their left over milk and food scraps are not trash, but actually a valuable resource.

The left over milk, poured down the drain, is actually food for the army of good bacteria at the waste water treatment center that cleans our water before it is being sent back into the Long Island Sound.

And their food scraps are going to a farm to compost into nutrient rich soil. Students had the opportunity to see, touch and smell actual compost and they all agreed with a smile that it smells like nature and wet forest.

Mount Vernon Columbus students are well on their way to making their school a much greener place. Way to go!