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.
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.