New Rochelle Columbus Parents Eagerly Helping Students To Learn About Sustainability

Columbus Elementary School has recently implemented the We Future Cycle School Lunch RIMG_0297ecycling program and under the leadership of incoming PTA President Karina Torres, many very  engaged parents at the Columbus Elementary School are stepping up to the plate….. or better, the  source separation station…to help teach students about Sustainability.

IMG_0322During each lunch period the stations are filled with exuberant students, donned with yellow reusable gloves, teaching others how to sort properly, under the watchful eyes of the parent helpers.

Karina Torres shared : “I am happy to see how the students ask me if I can ask their parents to come to school to help with the recycling project.”
Laura Flores commented with a smile : “I am impressed at the student helpers.  They are informative at directing their fellow schoolmates to show them where each recycling item goes, these children are our future recycle savvy.”
And the ultimate proof that environmental education in schools can change the community was shared by Maricela Jimenez: “I will now start to make changes to my everyday use of items…a simple change is to use reusable containers rather than ziploc bags which creates more trash”.


Many parents commented that it was an interesting experience to see their children in the lunchroom environment and they really enjoyed being part of this project.  Some mothers expressed shock at the amount of food that is wasted. Every day, the students are sorting out untouched food items into a share basket. A typical lunch will generate 2-3 copy paper boxes of untouched food.

IMG_0292Araceli Perez: “I find it very interesting how all the students, staff, and parent volunteers work together to teach one another the methods of recycling. My daughter now teaches every one at home that there are other forms of recycling such as food waste is for compost.”

Ms. Owens, Assistant Principal, Anna Giordano and Maggie Dickensen (Whitson Food Service Manager) are working together to reduce the food the children are taking but not eating, as well as how to channel the untouched food to the local needy.

Ms. Nunez, Principal, is very proud of how Columbus School has embraced this program and rightfully so!


New Rochelle Columbus Students are making a huge difference

Introducing Sustainability Education and Source Separation to a school is a massive undertaking because of the sheer number of  stakeholders. Think about it, changing behavior from “throwing it all away” to “responsibly sorting” in a building that has 1,100 people zooming through it at all times is huge!

Well, New Rochelle’s Columbus Elementary School is showing how it is done.

Ms. Nunez, Principal, and Ms. Owens, Assistant Principal, know that it takes everybody to be on the same page to be successful – not just within the building, but also from Food Service, Facilities, Central Administration and of course the parents.  A brilliant move to create consensus and ownership of the program at every level.

We Future Cycle then presented to each stakeholder group, such as the custodial staff, teachers, parents, monitors, and every single student in small groups. Sharing the visual of the amount of garbage that is being generated every day, and then adding it up to just one week was greeted with audible sounds of shock and disbelief.



23 bags of trash every day is a pretty powerful argument, and that is just from lunch. It does not even include the 20 bags coming out of night clean.









We Future Cycle involved the students to help with a Waste Audit. The students counted every single packaging material that is brought into the cafeteria and the raw data is now with the 5th grade Kaleidoscope students to work with.  Learning how hard data collection can be was a lesson in itself.

Read here how Columbus students reduced their lunchroom waste by 98%.

Setting up a building to allow for proper flow of materials relies heavily on clear and consistent signage as well as proper placement of the correct bins. Head Custodian George directed his team to set up each bin as per our suggestion with the signage provided by us, and the success was instantaneous. Kindergarten students carefully rinsed out their snack containers to place them into the commingled bin, proudly informing the teacher. “See, I am recycling, Mr Mastro.’ Every day, eager hands are up to get the job to bring the class room bins into the central hall way stations.IMG_0321

Columbus is only a few days into the process, but has already successfully reduced lunchroom waste by 98%, from just under 400 lbs per lunch to only 8 lbs, and the building output has also drastically been reduced by diverting the paper and commingled into recycling.

Columbus students are super excited because a film crew is covering the transformation of the school and the documentary is going to be shown on the big screen.  I can share already with you that Columbus is full of raw talent. So, watch out for the showing of “Columbus Students are Making a Real Difference” coming soon to the picture house near you.





How Much is Actually “a Ton of Garbage”?

Garbage costs money.  However only very few people actually know how much it costs and what a ton looks like. Very few of us think further then to the curb.

Let’s look at school garbage a little closer. A school with 830 students generated 23 large black bags of garbage every lunch, the total weight of those bags is 398.5 lbs.

This is what 23 bags look like. IMG_0258 Now that we know what about 400 lbs of garbage looks like, lets think about it.

A ton of garbage costs the tax payer around $80.00 to just dump it onto the tipping floor of the Incinerator, the big trash burning facility up in Peekskill. 400 lbs is a fifth of a ton.  So, imagine 5 times the amount you see, or 115 bags of trash. Clearly the $80 per ton does not represent the only cost of garbage. This material has to be put in bags, then brought outside into the dumpster, then loaded by workers into diesel fuel guzzling trucks (about 2.5 miles per gallon of diesel), driven to a transfer station, dumped there, then loaded onto large trucks and driven 50 miles up north to be dumped onto the tipping floor of the incinerator. And then it is burnt into our air. I get dizzy just looking at how often this material needs to be touched and handled for it “to go away”. It takes that much time and effort to “just throw something away”.

We just started the School lunch recycling program in this school and the kids sorted their lunchwaste into liquids, commingled, milk cartons, compost and trash. The results were astounding. unnamed

Out of the previous 398.5 lbs, only 8 lbs were actually non recyclable. That means that 98% of the material is recyclable.  So, “just throwing it away” is not just costing us a lot of money, but in fact, we use tax payer money to burn materials that we could easily sell for a profit. unnamed (2)

This is what 10 lbs of commingled looks like. Some math on the value of commingled. 1 ton of plastic PETE 1 sells from the Yonkers MRF for around $800. (the cost is market driven, oil dependent and is fluctuating). 10 lbs of plastic (to simplify this calculation, it is all the same resin) 2000 lbs of plastics sell for $800.00 10 lbs = $4.00 Milk cartons sell for $450 per ton. 30 lbs = $6.75 IMG_0278And this is what 15 lbs of milk cartons look like, we had two of these bags. And two full 5 gallon buckets with waste liquid weighing 74 lbs. That means we use fossil fuels to truck liquids 50 miles north just to burn them, rather then sending them down the drain? By far the heaviest was the food waste. 180 lbs of wasted food from 800 kids, plus about 50 lbs of untouched never opened food that was placed into the share basket. Clearly, a ton of garbage is a lot, but as you can see, only 2% of it is actually non recyclable.

So, our convenience to “just throw it away” costs us all dearly. Not just as hard cash but also at great environmental expense.

First Graders Write Heartwarming Thank You Notes for Bringing Recycling to Their School

We Future Cycle just finished implementing the recycling program at Blind Brook’s BMP Ridge Street Elementary School.

We just received these  heartwarming Thank You Notes from the 1st graders for bringing recycling to their school.

We are honored and very touched.

THANK YOU 1st Graders for such wonderful thoughts.

Senator George Latimer Visits We Future Cycle School Recycling Implementation

IMG_0128Five eager 5th graders from the Blind Brook’s BMP Ridge Street Elementary school’s Green Team were very proud to present the results from the recent implementation of the We Future Cycle School Recycling Program to Senator George Latimer, BOE President Jeff Diamond and Rye Town Councilwoman Christina Collins.

Everybody listened attentively as the students described how they conducted a waste audit in the lunchroom and learned that Ridge St Elementary school regularly generated 12 large garbage bags weighing a total of 186lbs and Senator Latimer expressed amazement when they shared with him that after source separation only 8lbs of trash are remaining (4% of the total waste).  All the other materials are diverted into recycling and composting.

Senator Latimer was also interested in learning how this program could be brought to additional Westchester County schools.

The Blind Brook Board of Education was instrumental in getting the district to adopt the We Future Cycle program and BOE President Jeff Diamond was very pleased to see the system up and running so amazingly well. Councilwoman Christina Collins, who also chairs the Rye Town Sustainability Initiative, has been supportive of the program from the first moment she heard about it and is delighted to see it in action.  The Blind Brook PTA sponsored the program in the district, and many PTA members volunteered during the first few weeks to get everything running smoothly.  Thank you to everyone for the support!