NYC District 3 Green Schools: How 6 People Changed the Way Mighty NYC Looks at Trash

People often wonder what they, as individuals, can really do to help the environment and to create change. Most give up soon after formulating the thought, because they think, there is nothing they can do. But they are so WRONG.

We were treated yesterday at the Greenburgh Nature Center  to a fabulous presentation about how 6 caring individuals from NYC schools made a HUGE difference. They started a composting pilot in 2012 in 8 NYC public schools – a pilot that wound up being adopted by the City in September 2012 and expanded to – currently – over 450 schools, with plans to eventually expand to all 1,800 NYC public schools.

And that -of course- is sending a shock wave through the country. Suddenly other school districts are waking up to the fact that the waste they create in the schools, their usage of EPS trays, because they are “cheap” is not longer acceptable. If the largest school district can make changes, so can……….must they.

Emily Fano of D3 Green Schools
Emily Fano of D3 Green Schools

These parents started in 2009  by meeting monthly with a “green support group” of sorts called the District 3 Green Schools Group.  (Check them out at  At the meetings they shared strategies for starting classroom and cafeteria recycling programs, energy conservation programs, fundraising by selling  waste-free lunch products, and school gardens and rooftop greenhouses.  Several of the D3 schools had PTA funded compostable trays to replace the DOE-issued Styrofoam trays because of concerns the trays leached toxic chemicals into the food and because of the disposal nightmare they cause.  This was what started their focus on trying to figure out how to compost the trays, which later developed into the tray and food waste pilot of 2012.

The school lunch recycling program, started parallel in New Rochelle in 2010 is also gaining traction fast in Westchester, however to take it to the level that the NYC D3 parents have managed, it will take high level administrative support.

Right now the program is in 7 school districts with a total of 22 schools, To make this program work, many moving parts have to be adjusted. But it all starts with a single engaged person!

So, every one of us can make a difference. Who knows what river YOU will be creating.

Thank you Emily Fano, Lisa Maller and Jennifer Prescott for sharing your story with us.




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