Meet New Rochelle Jefferson’s Green Star Students

As in life, leaders rise to the challenge, bubble up from the masses to take on responsibility. To guide and to lead. This is exactly what we see in the schools we start the We Future Cycle Recycling Program. All students go through training and learn where “away” is, they all learn about the problems garbage presents, they all learn that they can all make a difference by sorting their waste in the correct bin, but in each school a handful of students are somehow grabbed personally  by the project and they become our Green Star Students.

Meet our New Rochelle Jefferson Elementary School  Breakfast Green Star Students Jimena Garcia, Alexandria Hunter, and Mark Macias.

These three students are managing the entire breakfast recycling project. Voluntary, on their own, and with great enthusiasm. They come in early, make a visual inspection that the station is set up correctly and make sure that all breakfast students are sorting their waste in the right bins. This kind of engagement, taking on a project, making sure on a day to day basis that things are working are signs of outstanding leadership qualities.

Way to go Jimena, Alexandria and Mark!

 

Zero Waste! A Reality at the German International School White Plains

roll out 1We knew from the get go, that the German International School in White Plains would not have much garbage, as it is a cafeteria with all washable plates, but even we were floored when after 450 students plus staff going through the line, we only looked upon 2 (two !) single serve wrappers and a wipe as trash. T H A T   W A S  I T ! 2 Wrappers!

We, at We Future Cycle are used to a 98% reduction of waste through source separation, so something like 400 lbs down to 8 lbs, but that 8 lbs is usually a bulging kitchen size bag full of single serve chip bags, wrappers, juice pouches, snack wrap, plastic baggies and things of the sort.  But 2 wrappers and a wipe were all that stared us in the face after opening the , already miniature sized bathroom type, trash can that was placed in the lunchroom.

roll out 6And talk about the students instantly learning what it means to put their food waste into compost and not -as before- in trash. In classroom and auditorium presentations all grades, from Pre-K through 11 were acquainted with societies biggest problem. Trash!

Making recycling interesting to elementary school students is easy, all you have to do is show them a turtle that is eating a plastic bag and they are fired up to save the world.

Going up the grades and it becomes increasingly difficult to make middle school and high school students excited about recycling, however they all were super interested. Learning about the foot print of Aluminium foil, or that islands 2000 miles away from the closest civilization are clogged up with garbage was an eye opener to these private scholars, that may have not had to make their own beds yet.

The result was immediately visible, total buy in from the entire building population. We Future Cycle is looking forward to doing a building wide audit to see how the building portion of the program works. Judging by the lunchroom, the German International School is very close to making Zero Waste a reality.

White Plains Post Rd Elementary School proudly reduces garbage by 98%

It was a rainy day when We Future Cycle did the “before recycling” waste audit at the White Plains Elementary School. Mountains of trash bags from lunch had been piled up just outside the building to be weighed and counted before being brought to the large container by Custodian Rob  Dell’Orletta. Every single bag, bulging, dripping milk and being wet from the rain was weighed and results were added up. Post Rd Elementary school looked at 27 bags, weighing a total of 277 lbs. It was very messy and unpleasant. Mr Dell’Orletta was not surprised by the numbers, and confirmed that it is the normal amount, plus about another 6 from breakfast, usually, and some from after school.

He smiled at me, with charming disbelief, when I shared with him that after source separation we will look at one bag weighing less then 5 lbs.

Following classroom by classroom presentations to the students, and prior day presentations to all staff and adult players in the building, the big day finally arrived. Gone were the rows of large 55 gallon grey trashcans from the aisle between the table, gone where the bulging black plastic bags, hanging over the handle of the bins, to have quick replacements at hand. Mr Dell’Orletta looked somewhat worriedly when he saw me removing all his prepared replacement bags. We Future Cycle set up two recycling stations against the far side of the lunchroom, removed all large barrels, with its black bags and replaced them with smaller colorful bins, clear bags or no bags, and large signage on what each bin is for. I did not put any replacement bags on handles, explaining that I did not think we will need to empty any of them until the very end of lunch. Another disbelieving, but very hopeful smile from Mr Dell’Orletta.

Lunch time came and went, and as with all first days to teach 650 students to sort, it was a blur.

754bf9b0-bdff-40fc-8c3e-7e04f1af9aafThe results, however, were not blurry at all. Instead of 277 lbs of trash, Post Rd is proudly looking upon 3.5 lbs ! A 98% reduction

All the rest was either excess liquid, recycling, composting or untouched food to be donated to the local soup kitchen.

Ms Ossorio, principal, was giddy with pride and joy, and rightfully so, her students just proved that making a difference is very possible. And Post Rd students did it in a timely fashion too, on the first day! That is truly something to write home about.

 

The Moment That Made These Students Environmental Leaders

Meet Elizabeth Ortiz, Araceli Oseguera, Evelyn Argueta, Sofia Alvarez, Diego Ayala, Malaysia Dias, Alejandra Garcia and Isabella Ceja. These steadfast Green Team members at Columbus Elementary School have put themselves in charge of making sure the recycling system in the lunchroom is well organized and supervised. Every single day, they come up to help.

Today, We Future Cycle’s Executive Director Anna Giordano took some time to interview these future leaders to find out what their personal moment was, when they realized they just had to get up and do something.

Diego Ayala remembered that when he saw on his way home from school a soda can in the street with a small animal stuck in it, it just made click in his head and heart and he became a leading force in Columbus and his family to make a difference.

Other action stirring moments were the observation of a plastic bag in a tree and a bird having gotten entangled in it. Or a powerful documentary on TV about marine mammals entangled in plastic bags, or a pigeon getting stuck in a carelessly thrown away sauce cup.

Each student recalled this pivotal moment in their lives with great sincerity and it is that sincerity that shows each time they get up to help and go out of their way to make a difference. I am sure we will see many more great things from these exceptional students.

857 plastic bags per minute used in Westchester alone

DSCN2265This it what 857 plastic bags look like, strung up on a clothes line, and spread out to make a powerful statement. It is truly a mind boggling amount. It took 7 children two lunch periods to string them all up.

DSCN2284New Rochelle Columbus students are learning just HOW bad plastic bags are for our environment and how the small effort of bringing your own bag to the grocery store can make a huge difference.

In powerful essays, these students laid out just how easy it is to solve this problem, just bring your own bags.

 

Cash for New Rochelle Columbus Students Essay Contest Winners

New Rochelle Columbus Students are diving deeper and deeper into sustainability education and they are loving it.

We Future Cycle in collaboration with the St. John’s Episcopal Church on Wilmot Rd in New Rochelle sponsored a “How Do Plastic Bags Affect Our Environment” Research Essay Contest, open to 4th and 5th grade students.

Science Teacher Elizabeth Zahn taught in Science Lab the life cycle of plastic. Students learned that it took millions of years for minerals to be compressed to become oil, which is the basis for plastic production, whereas it only takes 3 seconds to make a plastic bottle. And this plastic bottle will take 1000 years before it goes away.

Ms Zahn skillfully walked the students through the realization, that saying it takes 1000 years to go away is really  a way to say forever. And that is truly what it is, plastic will NEVER biodegrade, it only photo degrades into smaller pieces of plastic that make it  into our food chain and are impossible to clean up.

Students researched the topic, wrote an essay about their findings and the judges Irene Schindler and Jennie Talley had a hard time choosing the top 8 entries among the record breaking 90+ participants. Nearly all 4th and 5th graders took the opportunity to enter. They knew from last years writing contest that Cash could be won!

DSCN2262Ms Nunez, Principal shared nuggets of wisdom from each winner’s essay with the applauding crowd and the students were very proud to receive their certificate and envelope, get a hug from Ms Owens, AP, and have their picture taken.

Here is a profound observation by Valeria Mendez  5th Paradiso.
“Did you know that only 5% of plastic is actually recycled, the other 95% is in the streets or the sea. Plastic bags are not the best choice to go shopping. THey end up in the sea, harming marine animals. And this is happening because of us!”
DSCN2271Naydelin Garcia Alonso, (5th Paradiso) understands that it takes all of us to solve this problem.
“Have you ever seen plastic bags stuck in trees or polluting oceans, lakes and rivers? Well, they got there by people throwing them out in the garbage or littering. How are we ever going to help the Earth? We all need to do our share to help”
Evelyn Madrid (5th Paradiso) understands the basic underlying reason for this problem is within us and how we value money.
” People and companies have been putting profit, laziness and convenience ahead of public safety. Companies don’t care about public safety and what’s good or bad for the environment, they just care about making money”
Jason Zheng (5th Paradiso) knows that nobody is too little to make a difference.
“Even though the world is already polluted as it is, we can still make a difference. Recycling correctly instead of mixing up trash and being lazy. Volunteer for shore cleanups. Don’t think your help doesn’t make a difference, because if everyone thinks that, nobody will decide to make a difference. Even the littlest thing, like using a reusable bag instead of a plastic bag will make a difference”
DSCN2274Valerie Schellenbach (4th Watkins) was blown away by the sheer number of plastic bags every year, and she shares :
“We Americans use between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags per year. Did you know it takes 1000 years for plastic brake down, and only 1% of bags are recycled? All this misuse of plastic is causing severe pollution to the environment”
DSCN2275Darien Chen  (4th Guadanini) understands that every little bit helps, and what might look small for us, is a big thing if everybody does it.
“There are many negative impacts in the environment by plastic bags. Plastic bags harm the world and the living things. It is very important that we reduce, reuse and recycle. This may be a small thing, but it benefits the world that we live in”
DSCN2276Mia Torres (4th) has done some research on the long term effects of our current consumption projectory and she encourages all her classmates to let their voices be heard. You go, girl!
“Scientists predict that if we don’t start caring for our oceans that by 2050 there will be more plastic then fish in it? But you can make a difference by instead of plastic bags use reusable one. Make your family well aware of the issues and see if you can help out in any way by reducing, reusing and recycling.”
Arianna North (5th Pomerantz) is realizing that littering is not just bad for the environment but it also costs us all a lot of money. Money we could find much better uses for.
“All over the world we are having problems. The entire eco system is at risk. All because of plastic bags, that are thrown away. Thrown away but never gone. Did you know that each time you litter, you throw away money? “

 

 

 

 

Teaching students to care about the environment

New Rochelle Trinity Elementary School Assistant Principal Inas Morsi Hogans has been for years a stout supporter of the We Future Cycle recycling program and knows that it takes regular refreshers for students to understand why they are sorting their lunch waste in the cafeteria.

Only if our head knows the why, the hands will do the what automatically.

Ms Morsi Hogans invited We Future Cycle to do student presentations in each classroom to refresh the older grades on how the program works, and of course to teach the younger grades. We Future Cycle staff members went from class room to classroom teaching the students that an empty bottle or peanut butter  jar is not trash, but rather material to make something new out of. The students were fascinated to learn where “away” was, when one talks about throwing something away.

In Westchester, “away” is the incinerator up the Hudson in Peekskill. A large Waste-to-Energy facility that burns Westchester’s 2500 daily tons of garbage into our air.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA regular lunch trash bag is a 55 gal 1mm thick trash bag. A school with 600 students generates between 13 to 20 bags of trash every lunch, each weighing around 12 -15 lbs, which means 333,333 bags of trash are burnt every day. That is an unfathomable number. I cannot even wrap my head around what kind of volume that represents. And that is just Westchester.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd New Rochelle Trinity students are drastically reducing their lunch waste by sorting. Out of 266 lbs of waste, only 4.5 lbs were non recyclable.

That is a whopping 98.3% reduction, simply by sorting out all the recycling, composting, excess liquid and the untouched foods. Through education and daily hands on participation, Trinity students care and they are making a huge difference. Can you just imagine if EVERY school did that? We Future Cycle is working towards just that.