Mount Vernon Graham school used to produce 15 bags of trash every day, and custodial staff had to bring each bag through a long underground tunnel , up some stairs to the street. That alone was a good work out.
Well, check out Dr McGregor , Principal of Graham school, lifting the remaining garbage with one arm.
Graham school just recently joined the We Future Cycle recycling program, the 6th of Mount Vernon schools and it diverted a record of 97% of its waste into compost and recycling. A mere 5 lbs were non recyclable soft plastics.
Students learned in auditorium and classroom presentations that there is no “away” in this world. They learned about garbage, pollution and how it all effects us right here, every day. Shocked faces looked at birds with their bellies full of plastic because people threw their waste carelessly away.
Sixth, 7th and 8th grade classes were together in the auditorium and it was so quiet one could hear a pin drop and collective moaning arose when they saw pictures of how plastic in the environment effects animals. I actually had a 7th grader come to me and hug me and thank me for showing her how she can make a difference. It was very heartwarming.
We Future Cycle is usually 2 weeks in the lunchroom actively helping the students to learn about what materials get diverted and we use that time to educate them even more. From day one, we had excited helpers and students that came to me to share how they are now making a difference every day.
Graham students are now the generation of kids that cares. Way to go!
What happens to stuff when we throw it “away”?
Walking through the fictional example of sitting on a park bench, eating a sandwich and throwing the left over and the plastic bag into the environment, students learned about how organic and inorganic materials interact with water and wind.
Students learned about the detrimental effects of littering to our animal world, in particular the marine life. Students reacted with utter shock to learn that the litter on our streets goes unfiltered with the rain water into our oceans and there it is mistaken for food by marine life that will die a painful and slow death.
Students pledged to never litter and to be the change agents of their community to educate them about caring for this world.
A fun, but slightly, messy science experiment capped off the lesson and students were asked to write about 3 things they learned.
Mt Vernon Lincoln students truly learned that their actions matter, every single day.
We Future Cycle had a successful launch at F.E. Bellows Elementary School, which serves 3rd-5th graders, in September 2019. The Rye Neck School District is one of the most enthusiastic and all-in communities in which we have launched the program! The PTSA spearheaded the introduction of We Future Cycle into the school district, and generously funded all components of the launch, including the weekly compost pick-up. Principal Mike Scarantino was an eager advocate for the program, as he had shown the documentary “Straws” to the 5th graders, educating them about the overuse of and destruction caused by single-use plastics. A number of students already compost at home, either in their backyards or through the Village’s residential food scrap program. Starting off with a mindful and supportive team makes the transition into lunchroom composting and recycling so much easier.
Head custodian Phil Reda and his team were very helpful in optimizing the lunchroom set-up. We started with one station, but as the kids were eager to run out to recess right after lunch, the custodial team asked about setting up a second station to make the sorting process even quicker – no problem at all! We also adjusted the bin order and bin size to make it easier for the custodial team to manage the recycling and composting at the end of the lunch periods. Each school is a little different, and the We Future Cycle team monitors the lunch periods at the school for 2 weeks after launch, giving everyone ample time to adjust and make any adjustments necessary to make the lunchroom flow smooth.
Aides Janice, Franka, Vilma, and Lisa, and the food service employees were all committed to making the system work as well. As in most school lunchrooms, students are given spork packets wrapped in plastic, ketchup packets, apple slices in packets, etc., and many are trashed without even being opened! At Bellows, students were automatically given 2 ketchup packets when they had a meal, such as chicken fingers or burgers, where they might want ketchup. In these instances we collected unopened packets and found that 75 – yes, SEVENTY-FIVE – ketchup packets were being trashed without even being opened, in a school of about 350 students. As well, on pizza day, students were allowed to go up to food service to get a second slice – but were required to take a second tray.
Both the aides and food service employees found these practices – distributing ketchup packets and requiring second trays for additional pizza slices – to be unnecessarily wasteful once they saw how much trash was being generated. The food service employees went to the food service director to ask if practices could change…and they did! Food service decided to switch to pump bottles once the ketchup and syrup packets ran out, and they disbanded the requirement for second trays for pizza. This demonstrates how important it is to talk to the folks “on the ground” in the lunchroom – they really see what is going on and how much waste is created every day. They have excellent suggestions about how to reduce food waste but are not always empowered to make such changes. The We Future Cycle program can help facilitate these discussions in schools to teach everyone to be more mindful about the substantial waste generated in schools every day.
As always, the results were incredible! The three grades generated 62.5 lbs of lunch leftovers in one day, and 92% of lunchroom leftovers were diverted into liquid, commingled recycling, and composting streams. The breakdown was as follows.
Liquid: 6lbs (10% of total weight)
Commingled (hard plastics and aluminum for recycling): 10lbs (16%)
Compost (food and paper): 37lbs (59%)
Trays (also will be composted): 4.5lbs (7%)
Trash: 5lbs (8%)
In addition to the lunchroom sorting, Principal Scarantino wanted to do composting in the hallways immediately. Students bring any snack leftovers out to the compost buckets in the hallway stations. This eliminates the need for liners in the trash cans in the classrooms, as there is no liquid or food waste in the classroom bins.
Lastly, the PTSA manages a garden at the school, and the students help keep it tidy. Now with the food scrap compost bins on site, the students are able to compost the yard waste as well by placing it in the bins!
We are so happy to have Bellows on board and look forward to our continued work in the Rye Neck Schools!
Mt Vernon Lincoln school just joined the We Future Cycle recycling program and reduced their waste by 97%, diverting all organic waste into composting and all appropriate packaging into recycling. Students enthusiastically joined as they realized that their personal small, every day actions such as sorting can make sure a big difference.
Principal Ms Jones and AP Mr Molina immediately took advantage of the district sponsored optional environmental education opportunities and we were invited to present to the Regents Bio students. Students learned about what happens when food waste is landfilled versus composted. It drew gasps of astonishment from them, as they had never thought about how the legacy of landfills remains and poisons us to this day with the methane they release into the air. Students learned about how easy it is to instead compost food waste and other organic matter and how that soil is full of life and nutrients.
A broader discussion ensued about how healthy soil is intimately connected to a wealth of a nation and to general health of people. Students received three soil samples as lab to examine them and make determinations on how these soils might hold water, support plant growth and support life in general.
Students all agreed that generating through composting a dark nutrient rich soil that supports plant growth and life in general is much preferred to landfilling organics. They were offered the opportunity to write an essay about what they learned and the best essay out of each class will be awarded a certificate and a small cash prize.
Meet Mt Vernon Lincoln Avenue Elementary School Principal Dr Jones and AP Mr Molina. See how casually Dr Jones can lift the only 6.5 lbs of garbage that are remaining after her entire school of nearly 700 students are done with lunch. Usually, an unsightly pile of bags weighing over 218 lbs are found on the sidewalk next to the school for removal, but no more.
Lincoln Ave students just learned all about garbage and how simple sorting out all recyclable and compostable materials is the solution. We Future Cycle presenters came to the classrooms and opened their eyes to the problems around garbage and that their own every day behaviors can make a big difference.
And every student agreed that it was easy and the right thing to do. Already the first day, we had lots and lots of students that wanted to get involved to make a difference and Lincoln Ave school will now create a green team to foster environmental thinking among the students.
Edwards Williams Elementary School in Mount Vernon has just implemented the We Future Cycle recycling program and reduced its garbage to just one bag, down from the regular pile. All the rest was recyclable, compostable, excess liquids or untouched food.
Students learned in class by class presentations how their personal actions can make such a difference. The simple act of putting a packaging material in the correct bin means that this material can have a second life.
Students learned that instead of throwing all their lunch waste in the garbage, if they just sorted it into recyclable packaging, compostables and non-recyclables, over 90% can be re-utilized. Shocked faces greeted images of landfills and incinerators. Nobody really ever thought what happened to garbage once they threw it “away”.
Learning that even their left over milk and their left over sandwich can be recycled was quite eye opening to these students. They were hesitant when offered to smell compost as they still had food waste as a negative thought in their head. But after the first, courageous kid took the proverbial nasal plunge and took a sniff and declared with a big smile : It smells just like dirt and nature!, they all smelled it and agreed that it makes so much more sense to compost our food waste into soil, then treating it as trash and either landfilling or burning it.
Williams students are all fired up to help save the world and from day one on, the building took ownership of the program.