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!

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

School Waste Audits Show Change Is Very Possible

As Sustainability Coordinator and Waste Management Consultant for schools, I am always counting and weighing garbage bags, mostly under the watchful eyes of head custodians that are highly skeptical of being asked to institute a “recycling program”. Sometimes with the help of the students, sometimes without.

The general notion in schools is that when there is a blue bin somewhere, then there is a recycling program. Upon being asked how much commingled they are actually pulling out of the building to be recycled, I am often met with a lengthy explanation on why the material is so contaminated that they have to discard it as trash.

The prevalence is still that ” It is all garbage to me” and ” I don’t have time to recycle”.

That is where We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized on large scale sustainability programs comes in.

The mere fact that I come in and count and weigh the garbage puts a value on garbage, which was not there before. Custodial staff usually does not think of the cost associated with garbage, but being told just how much their school generates creates already an awareness.

Schools being supported by We Future Cycle are usually audited before any recycling program component is implemented, and then after each component comes on line, and then periodically to make sure things are still on tracks.

We have seen dramatic reductions from 277 lbs from lunch alone down to 3.5 lbs and 187 lbs from night clean down to 21 lbs.

Showing reduction results from other schools with similar number of students is first met with high degree of skepticism, but once they see me standing on a scale, holding a bulging dripping back of garbage to weigh it, they know, that School Waste Audits show that change is very possible.

New Rochelle Trinity’s Waste Free Tree Filling Up With Leaves

Check out how these Trinity Elementary Students are carefully pasting their waste free leaf to the tree. 6fa07f31-c764-4bb8-958a-bfc3109faacc

Liam Sparano (K, Ms Hawkins class) has received already 6 leaves ” I eat healthy snacks to get energy to grow big and strong like Superman”.

Trinity Elementary School students are proudly pasting paper leaves with their names to the Waste Free Tree that is taking up most of the wall in the front lobby. This Waste Free Tree symbolizes the change Trinity students are making in terms of snack packaging. Only students whose mid morning snack is completely waste free will earn a leaf and the opportunity to paste it to the tree. Students that are waste free and also super healthy will be able to earn a bonus leaf. And ….. this tree is sprouting leaves like crazy!

Jayden Henry has received 5 leaves. Jayden said, “I tell my Mommy I need a healthy snack every day”

Valeria Gutierrez has 4 leaves- She said, “I remind my Daddy in the morning to not use plastic baggies and I need fruit or rice cakes for snack”

We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized in bringing large scale sustainability programs to schools was hired to turn New Rochelle on a path toward sustainability.  4 presenters did class by class presentations to over 1000 students, helping them make the connection that snacks that are healthy for their body are often also healthy for the Earth as they come naturally unpackaged.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven kindergarten students, when presented with a picture of the packaging waste of classroom snack knew immediately that most of that food belonged into the category of junk food. When asked if that food was healthy for their body, they all enthusiastically replied “no”. They listed the commonly known reasons on why not to eat junk food,  even the littlest ones knew the connection to obesity, diabetes and dental decay, amazing.

Tanya Kadaru has received 6 leaves  “My parents give me fruits and vegetables for snacks. They want me to stay healthy and get a lot of sleep so I can learn”.
Teachers are reporting a decrease in plastic baggies and more reusable containers. More students are bringing in water in thermoses to drink and skipping the juice boxes.
Trinity Elementary School is a shining example of how we can create a generation of kids that care through environmental education, and how it changes communities as well.

 

White Plains Schools Also Recycles Soft Plastics….because they can!

White Plains School District food service staff have been fabulous team players from the get-go in adopting the We Future Cycle lunchroom recycling program. We Future Cycle launched the recycling program at Church St, Ridgeway and Post Rd Elementary schools and the kitchen staff has been incredibly supportive and engaging.

All participating schools reduced garbage by a whopping 95-98% and the kitchens went down to a office-size trash bin with just a few used gloves and some dirty soft plastics, that is it!

However,  what really makes these food service workers stand out is their willingness to go beyond ….just because they can!

The kitchen is the only place in the building where clean soft plastic is collected and then eventually brought to the grocery store to be part of plastic bag recycling. Plastic bags, bread bags, and other  soft plastics are used to make composite wood, which is a mixture of sawdust and HDPE. As plastic bags are only recycled through the local grocery store and cannot go with the municipal commingled pick up, most kitchens are not willing to take on the task of sorting them out and then dropping them off at the grocery store on their own time.

White Plains kitchens said they can and they will. And so every week, sometimes even twice per week, one of these wonderful ladies drops of a bulging bag of clean, dry soft plastics for recycling. Way to go, what an example of going beyond…..

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