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.

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!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, right here in New York

This is Davenport Park in New Rochelle NY, a gorgeous park right on the Long Island Sound, and its shores are littered with garbage. This debris is floating in with the tide and then stays behind, unsightly and a danger to marine life.

Whenever we are in any of the beach parks we collect the garbage left behind. Not just to avoid it being taken back into the water by the next tide, but also to make a point to fellow beach goer. Teaching through example is the only way to reach adults.

D_BoHyAWwAAhwzLHow does that garbage get there, you might ask? Well, not by people physically throwing it into the water. Instead, all of our streets are connected to the ocean by their rain water sewers. The ocean starts right at your home street. That is because anything and everything that is on the street and gets washed with the rain water into these sewers will absolutely, positively end up in the ocean. There is no filtering system between the street and the ocean.

And this is the result of our carelessness. If the reader thinks the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with its soup of plastics is too far to affect us, think again, it is right here!

Mount Vernon School District Adopts We Future Cycle Recycling and Composting Program

We Future Cycle is exceedingly proud to implement its signature recycling and composting program in all 14 Mount Vernon NY schools.

Michael Pelliccio, the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, learned about our program and immediately realized that Mount Vernon schools were ready to participate in this.

With his guidance and support, We Future Cycle, was able to remove all Styrofoam products from the cafeterias, replacing them with a compostable alternative.

This means 8500 daily Styrofoam trays have been removed from the Westchester waste stream.

We Future Cycle is now working to start the program in each school, reducing its garbage by 95% and creating a generation of Mt Vernon students that care.

 

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.