Tag Archives: composting

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.

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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%!

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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!

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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!

Adopt A School To Provide Environmental Programming

Help us bring environmental education programs to schools.

We Future Cycle is providing challenging environmental programs to schools, all as stand alone curriculum add-on programs to teach students about how their every day actions can make a big difference.

  1. Environmental Footprint of Aluminum: (grade 5-9) Do you know where aluminum comes from?  It comes from Bauxite, a type of stone that contains various alumina minerals. Mining for bauxite involves cutting down trees in rain forests, destroying animal habitats and causing water and soil erosion. Students learn in detail how aluminum is created, and also the importance of recycling aluminum because it can be used over and over again.
  2. Science of Compost: (grade 4-7) After learning to source-separate their food and paper waste in the lunchroom, students know that the material is trucked away to be turned into compost, but how does the transformation happen?  In classroom presentations including slides and video, students will learn the science of mixing “greens” with “browns” with the appropriate amount of moisture to create nutrient rich compost. They will also learn about how putting organic matter in landfills contributes to climate change.
  3. Vermiculture: (grade K – 3) There are number of ways that organic waste (food and paper) are broken down to nourish our soil, and one is vermiculture, or worm composting.  In classroom-by-classroom presentation from a WFC expert, students will learn how worms are used to decompose organic waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material that can provide nutrients for sustainable plant growth. Students will learn that every living being has an important job to do and after getting up and close to a bunch of worms, most kids end up naming their worms. (Jeffrey seems to be the name of choice, and sometimes “wormy”)
  4. Planting a Trash Garden: (grade K-3) Students are learning about what is organic and inorganic and they learn how materials interact with the environment over time. It opens their eyes to the litter problem surrounding them as well as make them compassionate about being a change agent. A scientific experiment makes this very tangible for the students.
  5. Water Water Water: (grade 5-10) Students will learn about water, how it gets into the homes and what happens to it when it leaves, they learn the working of a Waste Water Treatment Plants, touch upon Waste Water to Drinking Water, Desalination and what the hype about bottled water is about. A water filtration activity for the students caps the lesson off.
  6. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch:(grade 5 – 12) Students are learning about the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the role of ocean currents, and how this affects wild life and the food chain. They also learn about prevention and mitigation in process. This program is very much centered around how people rise up to meet these challenges, it is meant to show students that nobody is too small to make a big difference. Never underestimate the power of one.
  7. Milk Cartons: (grade 3-6) This program explores packaging over time and how single serve packaging came about. Milk cartons are prevalent in any lunchroom in America, but few students know how a milk carton is made.  Students will learn how paperboard and waterproof plastic are blended to make a liquid-proof container, and thus why recycling cartons is a unique process.  Note that Westchester County only started recycling milk cartons in May 2016 and this program will aid to get the information back into the homes.
  8. E-waste/Electronic Equipment: (grade 6-11) What is E-waste and what does it take to make electronic devices that end up as e-waste. How are the devices disposed off and what are the human, environmental and social ramifications of E-Waste. This is also covering jobs in the recycling industry and how students can become involved in innovative technologies.
  9. 9. “Did you know” poster lunchroom education scavenger hunt (grade 3-6): this is an indoor recess activity to make students aware of the environmental foot print of materials they use every day, often without a second thought like straws, plastic bags etc. Searching for clues and filling in blanks is fun to do and they are learning without even noticing it.
  10. 10. The social and environmental impact of textiles: (grade 8-12) this program explores where clothing comes from, what it takes to make them, the social and environmental costs attached to clothing and why textile recycling is so important.
  11. 11. Galapagos, how islands deal with garbage: (grade 8 – 12) Exploring how other nations deal with waste, highlighting Galapagos.
  12. What is recycling? (grade 2-6) What happens to the material we put into the recycling bin, where does it go and what becomes of it. Learning how scientific concepts of gravity, magnetism, anti current, friction and resistance are used to sort materials for recycling. This program also focuses on reduce and reuse education
  13. What is Fracking (grades 8-12) an introduction into energy exploration and the environmental consequences to the oil and gas industry. What does it take to keep society going? Glimpsing into oil and gas exploration, as well as introducing renewable energy sources and how each student can make a difference by being energy literate.
  14. Coal and its environmental footprint (grade 8-12) This presentation examines how coal is mined and processed to be burned to make electricity, it describes the human , social and environmental costs. Renewable energy sources are introduced and contrasted.

New Rochelle Middle School is Digging Soil To Combat Climate Change

New Rochelle Albert Leonard middle school students are digging soil, in a literal kind of way.

6th graders explored in We Future Cycle classroom sessions the connections between throwing food waste in the garbage and climate change. Learning about methane and leachate got their attention. Just thinking past the garbage can is eye opening for these students.

While New Rochelle’s entire student population is now sorting their lunch waste between Commingled Recycling, Food Waste and Trash, thus reducing trash by a whopping 97%, they have not quite learned what actually happens to the food waste.

In classroom presentations, student were walked through the chemical process of decomposition, they chuckled a bit when asked if the banana looks the same when it comes back out and they quickly got the concept of nutrients, water and energy being the basis for life.

Making connections between how the apple tree takes nutrients out of the ground to grow the apple, which in turn nourishes our body when we eat it, and how the left over  still contains many nutrients that could benefit the soil if put back, but creates havoc if treated as garbage and dumped in a landfill, was a completely new line of thought to all students.

Students had the chance to dig through soil samples, seeing and touching the difference organic matter made in soil samples. They were tasked to make determination in terms of water retention capabilities, nutrient content and how plants might like to grow in that particular soil. Social Studies questions were introduced for students to think about how a the quality of soil might affect the wealth of a country.

What started out with students looking somewhat puzzled at three soil samples on their desk, ended in some fabulous essays about why composting is so important to the survival of our world. Great job Albert Leonard students.

 

 

 

 

New Rochelle Middle School Students Dig Healthy Soil, literally!

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We Future Cycle recently taught a workshop about food composting to all 6th graders at the Isaac E. Young Middle School.

Before We Future Cycle set up the recycling program in all of New Rochelle schools, students were taught in the lunchroom to “just throw all their garbage out”. And the result were heaps of bulging and dripping bags of garbage every day. Since the implementation, students are sorting their waste into excess liquid, recycling, and composting streams and from the 273 lbs of daily material, only 6.5 lbs are actual trash, whereas 126.5 lbs are food waste and trays that are sent to a commercial composting site in Ulster County.

Students learned what actually happens to their food waste. They learned about the detrimental effect of rotting food in landfills and how it creates methane, a highly toxic, flammable and explosive gas into our air as well as toxic leachate into our ground water.

Students giggled when walked through the decomposition of a banana through their own system, but understood suddenly how it all works. Understanding that the apple tree can only make an apple by using nutrients and water from the ground, these nutrients go into our body when we eat the apple and any left over should go back to the soil, rather than being treated as trash to create methane in the landfill.

Students learned about the magic of taking two things we consider waste ( leaves and food waste) and by combining them and letting nature do its thing, we get black, nutrient rich soil.

As activity, students touched, smelled and observed different soil samples and made determinations as to how plants might like to live in that soil. In the beginning, some kids leaned far away  from the samples put in front of them, but warmed quickly to smelling and touching them, all to say : “oh, it just smells like dirt”.

Yes, hheaderPhoto-learnealthy soil made from food waste and wood chips/leaves. Nature’s magic

Easy to do, all we have to do is sort out our food waste and mix it with woodchips and leaves and after 60 days we have healthy soil. Easy!

 

New Rochelle Jefferson School Proud Recipient Of Westchester County Earth Day Award

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Principal Nieves and Assistant Principal Bruno are proudly displaying their Westchester County Earth Day Award. They are standing under one of the reasons they were chosen for this award.

The “Jefferson Feeds the Garden” Tree is a beautiful display of paper leaves on a display tree. Each leaf signifies that a child brought a completely waste free snack to school, using reusable containers only and eating healthy. The healthy food waste from snack, like the banana peel or apple core went to the composter right next to the lovely raised bed garden.

Under the guidance of Assistant Principal LeAnn Bruno, Jefferson implemented the We Future Cycle Lunchroom Recycling program and reduced its waste by 97%, students learned about class room waste sorting and building waste went down by 50%. Students learned about waste free snacks and healthy food waste started to be composted. Students also learned about litter and it detrimental effects on our Earth and Wildlife and we celebrated it all with a Green Writing Contest. 15 proud winners were loudly cheered by their class mates as they made their way up to the stage to receive their prizes and certificates.

I am breathless just recounting all the environmental programs that We Future Cycle was able to bring to the school thanks to the unwavering support of both Principal and Assistant Principal.

This award is well deserved. Congratulations!

Town of Greenburgh Eyeing To Operate Westchesters First Food Composting Site

Paul Feiner, long time Supervisor for the town of Greenburgh is an ardent supporter of green and sustainable practices. We Future Cycle is partnering with the Town of Greenburgh to operate the first food composting site in Westchester.

Currently the County of Westchester is spending close to a million dollars per week to burn its 2500 daily tons of garbage into the environment at the Peekskill incinerator. A look at the garbage composition reveals that nearly 50% of that is organic matter such as food waste.

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33% are paper products that could be recycled and another 16% are plastics, glass, metals and cartons that could also be recycled and generate income for the County, rather than being burnt into our air at great expense. Only 4% of our daily garbage is actual trash.

The weak link so far is what to do with the organic waste. Yard waste is already collected and most Westchester communities truck it out to a commercial yard waste composting facility in Rockland or Putnam County. At great expense I might add. Greenburgh alone spends  $ 1.25 million disposal fees just for leaf season. And that does not account for the actual trucking expenses, only the disposal cost.

So,what to do with the food waste?

We Future Cycle has brought their ground breaking recycling program now to many schools in the county, redirecting 95 to 97% of the lunchroom materials into recycling or composting streams and away from trash.

 

So far, the food waste is going to the Ulster County Composting Facility, quite a trek up I-87. They mix 3 parts leaves / wood chips with one part food waste and -voila- 3 months later, they have a salable product called potting soil that sells for $6 per cubic foot at Home Depot.

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final product ready to be bagged

And why bring a valuable ingredient for healthy soil to be used somewhere else?

So, the Town of Greenburgh is stepping up to the plate to bring the first food composting site to Westchester County, keeping valuable resources within the county, reducing trucking and disposal expenses, lowering costs so that more schools can participate in the program and generating black gold. A total win-win situation.

We Future Cycle is proud to be part of this.

White Plains Ridgeway Elementary Kitchen Staff Feeds 600 Students Almost Wastefree!

Meet the Ridgeway Elementary School Kitchen Crew. These wonderful ladies make sure that Ridgeway students are happy campers in the lunchroom. Salads, sandwiches, hot food, all is prepared fresh right on site.

Ridgeway Elementary School was one of the White Plains pilot schools to join the We Future Cycle recycling program and the entire school embraced the program with gusto.

The kitchen crew sorts all food waste into compost, all packaging material into recycling and they are also sorting all clean soft plastic into a bag which gets recycled at the local grocery story as part of the plastic bag recycling. This portion of the program is completely voluntary, and Ridgways kitchen staff is going every week above and beyond to do their part for the environment.

I was proudly shown their office size garbage can that sported after a full day of work just a handful of gloves and a few dirty soft plastic food pouches.

That is truly a wonderful example of an entire school community making a difference and going green.