All posts by wefuturecycle

F.E. Bellows in Rye Neck Launches We Future Cycle!

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 students examine soil samples to learn why composting is so important

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Mt Vernon Lincoln Ave school reduces garbage by 97%

smallDrJones

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. 20191015_101801

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.

Mt Vernon Williams Students reduce garbage to just one bag

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.20190927_084232

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. unnamed (7)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.

20191017_125826

We Future Cycle pushing for more sustainable options to feed students

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of students to care and to reduce garbage as much as possible. This is a 3 pronged approach. We work with the schools directly to set up logistics to allow for separation of materials so these can actually be recycled and composted.

We also present to the entire school community in order to create behavioral change across all players in the building. Changing on how we discard what we deem not to need anymore is a learning curve as it involves a change of heart. Only if people know what becomes of the material that is carelessly discarded, they start to become responsible for their actions, as small as where they place their empty coffee cup.

And lastly, we are working with food service to identify areas where we can replace unneccessary packaging with bulk.

We are very proud that our vocal opposition to EPS trays (Styrofoam) has now resulted in all of Westchester’s school districts to replace them with a compostable alternative.

We are also fighting against pre-wrapped Spork packages that contain a straw, napkin and spork, all wrapped in plastic. Our studies revealed that 70% of all students do not use the spork nor the napkin, thus discarding the materials unused.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Unused spork package components after lunch

We are also working to replace all single serve condiment pouches with bulk squeeze bottles. Training students to only take what they intend to consume is part and parcel for this effort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ketchup pouches taken but not consumed from one lunch period

We are working to make the school lunch world a greener place, one lunchroom at a time.

The bigger fight is to get washable flatware back into the lunchrooms.

 

Mt Vernon Columbus students compost and recycle now, 96% trash reduction

Every morning, Mt Vernon garbage trucks stop in front of each school to lug black trash bag over black trash bags into the hopper. Columbus Elementary School is usually sporting a bulging row of bags, sometimes already attacked by vermin and bags ripped over with unsightly trash spilling out.

20190923_074836

But no more!

Columbus just joined today the We Future Cycle recycling program and in class by class and auditorium setting presentations all 500 students, ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade learned about the problems around garbage.

They learned that by simply sorting their waste into organic, recyclable and non recyclable, most can be diverted out of the waste stream. And they took to it like fish to water. On day one, students diverted 181 lbs of material into recycling and composting, that would  otherwise have gone into the trash. A whopping reduction of 96%!

20190923_084134

So, instead of that row of trash bags, Columbus is only sporting this one single, very light bag of 7.5 lbs. THAT IS IT!

20190923_135142

Students said, that they had never thought past the garbage can, the stuff  just magically disappeared at some point. But now, they realize that their own actions, as simple as placing an empty milk carton into the recycling container can make a difference. Students learned that not just bottles and cans are recyclable, but also all glass, milk and juice cartons, all metals including Aluminum foil, and all hard packaging made of out of plastics, with the exception of Expanded Polystyrene (Styrofoam).

Students were surprised to hear that even their left over milk and food scraps are not trash, but actually a valuable resource.

The left over milk, poured down the drain, is actually food for the army of good bacteria at the waste water treatment center that cleans our water before it is being sent back into the Long Island Sound.

And their food scraps are going to a farm to compost into nutrient rich soil. Students had the opportunity to see, touch and smell actual compost and they all agreed with a smile that it smells like nature and wet forest.

Mount Vernon Columbus students are well on their way to making their school a much greener place. Way to go!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, right here in New York

This is Davenport Park in New Rochelle NY, a gorgeous park right on the Long Island Sound, and its shores are littered with garbage. This debris is floating in with the tide and then stays behind, unsightly and a danger to marine life.

Whenever we are in any of the beach parks we collect the garbage left behind. Not just to avoid it being taken back into the water by the next tide, but also to make a point to fellow beach goer. Teaching through example is the only way to reach adults.

D_BoHyAWwAAhwzLHow does that garbage get there, you might ask? Well, not by people physically throwing it into the water. Instead, all of our streets are connected to the ocean by their rain water sewers. The ocean starts right at your home street. That is because anything and everything that is on the street and gets washed with the rain water into these sewers will absolutely, positively end up in the ocean. There is no filtering system between the street and the ocean.

And this is the result of our carelessness. If the reader thinks the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with its soup of plastics is too far to affect us, think again, it is right here!

Mount Vernon School District Adopts We Future Cycle Recycling and Composting Program

We Future Cycle is exceedingly proud to implement its signature recycling and composting program in all 14 Mount Vernon NY schools.

Michael Pelliccio, the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, learned about our program and immediately realized that Mount Vernon schools were ready to participate in this.

With his guidance and support, We Future Cycle, was able to remove all Styrofoam products from the cafeterias, replacing them with a compostable alternative.

This means 8500 daily Styrofoam trays have been removed from the Westchester waste stream.

We Future Cycle is now working to start the program in each school, reducing its garbage by 95% and creating a generation of Mt Vernon students that care.

 

Mount Vernon Hamilton School reduces garbage by 94%

Mount Vernon School District recently joined the We Future Cycle program and the trail blazing school was Hamilton Elementary School and under the leadership of Ms Wesolowski, over 500 Hamilton students from K to 6th grade learned all about garbage.

In class by class presentations, students learned that over 90% of their lunch waste is actually either recyclable or compostable, if it was just sorted out.

That alone did not get a lot of reactions from those little guys. It is truly too unwieldy of a concept. But what got their attention big time was when we shared that we can even recycle their left over sandwich.

We usually make a pause to give them a chance to digest that thought.

And then we show them what compost looks like. It is first greeted with some frowns, but upon smelling it, they all proclaim that it smells just like nature. And they are all on board when asked to decide what was better for the world, burning their left over sandwich or making soil out of it.

Students learned about the problems around garbage and that, when we talk about “throwing something away”,  there is no “away” on this earth,  Big eyes opened when students saw pictures of a landfill, but even bigger eyes when they learned that Westchester County brings its 2500 tons of daily (!) garbage to the incinerator in Peekskill to burn it, creating smoke and pollution.

Most students knew already that bottles and cans were recyclable, but were astonished to find out that all milk cartons, juice boxes, aluminum foil and other hard plastics were also recyclable.

Being in a lunchroom, teaching every single student how to sort properly is quite an experience. But it is so rewarding to see the incredible improvement already on day 2.

Hamilton reduced its garbage from 10 bags of trash weighing 106 lbs down to a mere 6.5 lbs, a 94% reduction.

The very next day, a student shared with me that her mother noticed the drastic reduction of garbage bags out at the curb. Great news!

Hamilton Elementary school is now in the process of creating a green team,  empowering students to become agents of green change.

New Rochelle Davis Students commit to making a difference

Writing for a purpose, putting words on paper to commit yourself to a course of action.

That is what New Rochelle Davis students did. Challenged by the prestigious Nina Chin Green Writing contest, 48 students rose to the challenge and committed to making a difference.

Last Thursday, Davis’s auditorium was filled with third, fourth and fifth grade students, all excited and nearly shaking with anticipation.

Who will win?

One by one, Assistant Principal Laurie Marinaro called up the winners, and under thunderous applause the proud students walked up to receive their certificate and their envelop with a cash prize.

This contest is sponsored by the family of the late Nina Chin. Ms Chin was a life long educator and she knew that better writers are better learners. So she sponsored from her own money every year a writing contest for her students, challenging them to rise and put words on paper as a written commitment. And it worked! Nina Chin’s family is proud to continue this tradition and Anna Giordano, Executive Director of We Future Cycle has been honored to administer this grant now for 8 years. This year, two New Rochelle students were chosen.

Even though the contest is only open to 3rd to 5th grade, one second grader decided to participate and wrote a wonderful essay explaining how recycling brings hope for good change. Talia’s grade was not part of the auditorium award ceremony, so she got a visit to the classroom by the Assistant Principal and all the dignitaries to be presented with her certificate. And she got great cheering from her classmates. I am sure, that 2nd grade class cannot wait to participate next year.

Grade 2
Talia Goldsmith wrote a beautiful and long essay entitled “More Recycling, More Hope” and she explains to the reader that plastics do not turn into dirt when they are thrown out and she then launches into a long list of what can be done to educate others and how to do hands on solutions.
Grade 3
Abigayle Mills explains how she is making a difference by doing the 6 Rs actually, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Rethink, Repair and Refuse. She is explaining how every person can do follow the 6 Rs and she cites interesting facts she collected while researching for this essay.
Ben Kessler is pointing in his essays to many overlooked environmental problems. He lists how people are wasting power and are putting chemicals on their lawns that can hurt people and animals and is causing pollution in our water. He explains the looming problems associated with global warming and then he launches into a detailed description of how he and his families are actively making a difference by bringing all food in reusable containers, picking up trash when they are on a hike and growing a garden. He ends with a powerful call to action :” Everybody can do more. The environment is our life and we need to take care of it”
Xavier Pichardo organizes his ideas to make a difference into small, medium and large and give examples as to what can be done and how small, medium or large effort it takes to do. He lists examples of picking up trash, eliminating single serve cups and bags and donating ones christmas tree to be part of a new beach dune.
Declan Fleming explains how he and his dad are actively sorting their waste into paper, commingled and non -recyclables on Saturdays, and that they are doing food composting in the yard. He explains that he brings his reusable water bottle every day  and that he pledges to take shorter showers and switching off any light. He has lovely pictures as part of his essay to illustrate his points.
Iona Conneely leads the reader right into the topic why asking for their help in terms of making the world a better place. She concentrates on the evils of plastic straws and how they harm wildlife, turtles in particularly, She offers many solutions that are easy to do and she calls for actions to go around and ask restaurants to stop giving out straws. That sounds like a GREAT idea.
Leyah Perdomo starts her essay by highlighting just how beautiful this Earth is and how littering, hunting and wasting water is damaging this awesome world. She calls the reader to action to help her save the world by describing that anything dumped on the floor gets washed into the oceans and that will hurt animals. She explains the effects of wasting water and hunting animals and ends with the intense plea to make good choices and help save this Earth.
Grade 4
Gemma Gilmartin outlines how she is personally affected when she sees people litter. She shares that some classmates are just emptying their wrappers on the ground and it makes her upset. She emotionally describes how many little things can make a bid difference and give many example such as picking up trash, using reusable bottles instead of single serve ones, She shared a story where she saw her classmates after the plant sale with plastic bags and upon asking them if they really needed the bag, she collected them all to bring back to the plant sale for re-usage. That is very proactive thinking and just maybe, her actions made the plant sale moms think to ask if someone actually needed a bag. She carefully illustrated with colored pencil drawings her ideas. Gemma even founded a Nature Club in 1st grade.
Gabriella Collins focuses on combating litter. She has colorful pictures about litter and how easy it is to just pick it up by just carrying a bag when you go somewhere. She knows that her actions do not stay unnoticed and by herself modeling to pick up, others will follow in this effort. She ends with a call to action by being a change agent in our society.
Carmel Weiner explains what is all recyclable and what can be composted, he lists how these simple actions help the world and how they are important values in his family. His family owns an electric car and he describes how fun it is to drive know that you do not burn gas. He also shares that he never uses paper or plastic ware at home and even though it means he has to do more dishes, he does not mind the extra work because it is worth it to help take care of our planet.
David Lore shares some shocking data with the reader. He observed that there are many plastic water bottles on ball fields and learned through research that in the US every single hour over 4 million plastic bottles are used but only 25% of them make their way into recycling. He shares that he reminds his mother to bring the reusable bags to the store so she would not need plastic bags.
Grade 5
Angela Mathew shares her story of going the extra mile by picking up litter to dispose of it correctly. It made her feel good and she is proud of herself and wants to do it again. She understands how important trees are to life and has planted many seeds to help plants to grow. She shares the story of the Taj Mahal in India having been really dirty but then people came together to clean it up.
Millie Stevenson is leading others to do better. She fixes other students sorting mistakes because she cares. She describes how trash thrown carelessly out of the window can hurt animals and plants.
Sophia Ochoa helps her community by recycling because she knows that when people start to care about recycling, they will also not litter anymore. She realizes that garbage has a terrible effect on communities and it creates pollution and global warming.  Sophia also understand that recycling lowers the need for raw materials and thus helps the earth. She ends by imploring people to recycling more and not be a lazy lizard.
Yuna Ueno draws the reader in by recounting a story of how people that litter often think someone else will come along to pick it up anyways. She researched this issue and realized that according to her information over 75% of our waste can be recycled, but currently the average is only 34%. She lists many good ways of how personal choices of reducing waste can make a huge difference. She gives many example on where we can do the right thing such as at home, on our way to school or where ever we see trash on the ground. It is easy to do and you can find a friend to do it with.