On page 3A of the Sunday Dec 6th edition of the Journal News is a lovely article about the White Plains Ridgeway Elementary school’s recycling program.
Akiko Matsuda, the reporter that covers environmental issues for the Journal News in Westchester County contacted We Future Cycle in August to find out more about the program. We had long conversations covering the beginnings, the challenges and the successes. Akiko was hooked and ready to see the program in action.
Schools don’t easily admit reporters but Ridgeway Elementary School is so proud of its lunchroom that they were happy to share the good news. Assistant Principal James Graziano is an enthusiastic supporter of the program and together with his fabulous head custodian Pedro Molino showed off his kids with a proud smile.
We Future Cycle is excited that this news coverage has raised awareness in the community that other school districts contacted us to find out more about the program. Thank you Akiko and thank you Ridgeway students for showing off that you can make a difference.
Nine adorable 3 year olds were sitting wide eyed on the carpet while helping Anna Giordano from We Future Cycle empty two reusable bags of all sorts of packaging materials onto the carpet.
They picked up empty soda cans, empty peanut butter jars, empty glass bottles, crumpled aluminum foil, empty can food cans. They checked if one can rip a pizza box, and they crinkled the soft plastic wrapper of cookies.
When asked what all this stuff was, they answered according to what they had in their hand. “A bottle”, “Paper”, “box”.
When you ask elementary school children the same question, the answer will invariably be “trash”.
By elementary school age, children have learned already what trash is, and they have already been impregnated by the thought that all things they are done with is trash. They heard so many times already “just throw it away” that they have a clear understanding that “away” is a very convenient spot for unwanted things.
These nursery school children were so excited about that a bottle can, just like Lego, be a building block for something else again. They immediately grasped the concept that if you sort things in the right bin, you can use it again. With gusto they helped to sort items into the commingled or the paper recycling bin, and they asked to do it again. They learned to identify between hard and soft plastic and they learned that aluminum foil is metal. They can pick out paper and cardboard, and they learned with sadness that little plastic baggies are not recyclable again, but really trash.
Theresa McCaffrey, owner of Little Leaf Nursery school is very focused on teaching her students about nature. The multi-age nursery school is located within Andrus-on-Hudson, a senior residential community, and it’s 25 acres are the children’s living classroom. Little Leaf at Andrus On Hudson is in Hastings 185 Old Broadway, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY 10706. Gorgeous. There is a garden, a mud kitchen for the kids, and all kinds of outdoor activities. Daily routine is a nature walk, come rain or shine and these kids are suited up in rain gear and are running around with huge smiles on their tiny faces. They do activities with self collected acorns, they have communal snack on washable plates and bowls, all organic, non processed foods, heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables. You will find no sugary juice boxes or processed lunchables here. A fabulous place!
And now, the students are also learning about the cycle of food waste into compost. We Future Cycle set up a compost tumbler and the students are now sorting their clementine peel into a cute froggie shaped bin and are proudly taking turns to bring the bin to the composter, mixing in the browns with the greens, and then tumble.
Under the guidance of Ms Caffrey and her two amazing assistants, Little Leaf students are already making a difference in this world. Way to go!
This is completely untouched food from just one lunch period in one school.
Before schools implemented the We Future Cycle Recycling program, this untouched food went unnoticed right into the garbage can.
However, now as additional benefit to source separating in the lunchroom this food is sorted into a share basket, ready to be consumed by either other children within the school during lunch, afterschool program or while being at the nurses office, or donating it to a local soup kitchen. Both is legal, safe and infinitely preferred over just trashing it.
We Future Cycle is often met with resistance when suggesting to donate the sorted out food. Standard practice in the school cafeterias is that if the milk runs out of date over the weekend, instead of donating it on Friday, it is being tossed on Monday, packaging at all.
Arguments given are that food service does not want to be liable should someone get sick when consuming donated food, or that it is illegal to donate tax payer sponsored food, or that it is too much work to organize the logistics around food donation.
As a matter of fact, it is not only legal, but also encouraged to donate the food. The Good Samaritan Act holds any donor harmless and We Future Cycle will pair the school up with the closest local, health department vetted soup kitchen, that will come and pick up right after lunch. A complete Win Win situation for all parties.
And think about the social lesson to the children if they are involved in the process.
However, the best way to avoid untouched food waste is to teach the children (and their parents) about choices and how to refuse when they do not intend to consume a food item.
In the lunchrooms we see so many children dumping the lovingly made sandwich from mom right into compost, without ever taking a bite out of it. And off they go to stand in line at the snack desk to buy chips and ice cream.
I am sure there is a better way. Let’s tackle it to make a difference.
Enid Blount Press joined WeFutureCycle to help be part of the solution of recycling and composting in the schools in 2015.
Enid is a mom and a professional musician.
On the day her 2nd Grade daughter came home, distraught that the school had brought back Styrofoam trays in the lunchroom, she decided to call the school system and ask what their plan was for bringing back compostable trays. Their response was that the cardboard trays would be back 5 months later, in the fall. Joining Anna Giordano, who was behind getting the Styrofoam out of the schools, was her next step.
Enid now helps in the New Rochelle school system as well as other schools with the composting and recycling in the lunchrooms. Enid is “thrilled to help tackle the waste” and provide a better environmental education for our community along with her colleagues.
We Future Cycle is extremely proud to have Enid. She immediately jumped into action by joining the implementation at the White Plains Church St Elementary School.
Can you imagine 110 times the amount of garbage as in this picture? Well, this is what Hastings-on-Hudson school district has not generated in the past year thanks the robust We Future Cycle recycling program it adopted last year. About 22 tons.
Thanks to the endless energy and support of Maureen Carabello, Treasurer, as well as the two head custodians in the elementary school and the middle/high school Hastings can look proudly upon major accomplishments.
Both buildings reduced their garbage so significantly that they reduced the number of dumpster by 50% and were able to renegotiate a $2000.00 reduction in their pick up cost.
Custodial staff was also able to reduce their plastic bag usage and purchases by 50% which is an expense often overlooked.
Truly an astonishing first year results. Hats off to Hastings-on-Hudson.
UPDATE: The program will be aired on January 12th on AM 880.
Today, Sean Adams, a reporter for WCBS, came to learn about the We Future Cycle Recycling Program in the Hastings-on-Hudson schools.
WCBS Newsradio 880 is one of America’s most listened to radio stations providing news and information on the AM dial in New York for 45 years. Traffic and Weather Together on the “8’s” has been a mainstay with New York commuters for decades. With one of the largest, most veteran local news staffs in the country, WCBS provides coverage of breaking news, local news, business, sports and entertainment. WCBS 880 provides a 24 hour news stream via CBS New York.com.
Adams took time to learn about the program, walked around the schools and interviewed Mr. Johnson, Assistant Principal of Hillside Elementary school, Mr Johnson explained how the children have taken full ownership of the program and how they are correcting and teaching each other, how they check their classroom bins for all content to be correct and that they are even checking in the offices if all is in order. “I am very conscious about where I put my things because I know that I have my kids in and out of here and they are checking”, Johnson said with a big smile.
George Prine, Director of Facilities, shared that garbage has gone down drastically . Prior to this program, he used to fill two 6 yard containers to the brim every day. Now he is looking at maybe 4 yards every other day. He is in the process of making changes to his pick up needs and is expecting to be saving on next years garbage bid. “I am just amazed how well it is working, we have tried several times to increase our recycling, but only this time it is working and it is here to stay” he shared contently.
Sean Adams also interviewed Alan Levin, Director of Food Service with Chartwell. Mr Levin has been an exceptional team player in this program because he worked diligently to bring his kitchen to follow the same rules. The kitchen is also fully source separated, sorting out compost, commingled as well as soft plastic. “Prior to this, we had about 5 barrels of garbage every day, and now we are down to this tiny little bin”, showing off an office sized bin, “everything else is either commingled or compostable. I call this a really successful program and my staff has really been very good about following the new rules.”
All three agreed that this is the way of the future and they are happy to be part of it.
The show will be aired on January 5th, 2015 on AM 880.