Tag Archives: composting

“We had no trash at all today” 250 students have learned about Waste Free Snack

“We had no trash at all today” proudly says Sebastian , a pre K student, and then hugs my leg. And then he gets to paste a Waste Free Leaf on the fabulous tree outside the Principal’s office.

In June I sat surrounded by 3 and 4 year olds. One girl even sitting on my lap. In front of me is a tray with all their waste from snack. Asking little ones like that where the trash goes, they will give you answers like “in the garbage can”, “in the garbage truck”, but when you ask deeper where they thought the garbage truck goes, they all stopped to think. I watched them figure out that -of course- the truck has to go somewhere and then guided them through the process of understanding that Westchester’s trash gets burned into our air.

Together we resolved that it is just as easy to put the sandwich in a washable container than in a single serve plastic baggie. And they got it, amazingly quickly.

Introducing the We Future Cycle Waste Free Snack program that combines education of children and ultimately also their parents with a fun hands-on activity has brought great change to schools. At the German International School White Plains, the entire elementary school is participating. We Future Cycle went to each classroom. We talked about how to package foods in a more responsible way, how to be waste free, how to be healthy to our body and to our Earth and we introduced on-site composting.

To make decomposition touchable for the students, two composters are placed at a convenient spot and each class learned about it. Each time the students are waste free and have only compostable waste, they are rewarded with a leaf to paste on the beautiful Waste-Free-Tree and two students get to feed the composter. It is a very coveted job and as they dump the fresh banana peel in, they get to check out what happened to yesterdays apple core, bringing natures circle of life close to home.

Needless to say, teachers are reporting that a record numbers of apples and bananas are coming in since the beginning of the program.

But what is the most satisfying for me, is that the students are suddenly aware of how their actions make a difference, they are aware that waste is a problem, and they join me celebrating being waste free.

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Waste Free Field Day, A Reality at the German International School White Plains

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Water Bottle Parking

The secret to any event is a very simple equation….what goes in, must come back out.

Under the guidance of Elementary Principal Dr Simone Bruemmer, and Green School coordinator Cynthia Nichols with help from We Future Cycle, 400 students and parents had a wonderful day of fun activities and all without creating ANY TRASH AT ALL.

The parents in charge of refreshments brought only finger food foods without any plates, spoons or napkins that needed disposing.  Clothe table linens were used, and instead of disposable single serve water bottles for hydration, the students brought their own reusable bottles and went to the watering station for refills.

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Water Bottle Refill Station

All there was to dispose was the melon rind or the fruit kebab stick, both finding their way into the clearly labeled compost bin, to be sent, together with the lunchroom food waste to the commercial composting site.

This school is an inspiration!

 

 

School Waste Audits Show Change Is Very Possible

As Sustainability Coordinator and Waste Management Consultant for schools, I am always counting and weighing garbage bags, mostly under the watchful eyes of head custodians that are highly skeptical of being asked to institute a “recycling program”. Sometimes with the help of the students, sometimes without.

The general notion in schools is that when there is a blue bin somewhere, then there is a recycling program. Upon being asked how much commingled they are actually pulling out of the building to be recycled, I am often met with a lengthy explanation on why the material is so contaminated that they have to discard it as trash.

The prevalence is still that ” It is all garbage to me” and ” I don’t have time to recycle”.

That is where We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized on large scale sustainability programs comes in.

The mere fact that I come in and count and weigh the garbage puts a value on garbage, which was not there before. Custodial staff usually does not think of the cost associated with garbage, but being told just how much their school generates creates already an awareness.

Schools being supported by We Future Cycle are usually audited before any recycling program component is implemented, and then after each component comes on line, and then periodically to make sure things are still on tracks.

We have seen dramatic reductions from 277 lbs from lunch alone down to 3.5 lbs and 187 lbs from night clean down to 21 lbs.

Showing reduction results from other schools with similar number of students is first met with high degree of skepticism, but once they see me standing on a scale, holding a bulging dripping back of garbage to weigh it, they know, that School Waste Audits show that change is very possible.

New Rochelle Trinity’s Waste Free Tree Filling Up With Leaves

Check out how these Trinity Elementary Students are carefully pasting their waste free leaf to the tree. 6fa07f31-c764-4bb8-958a-bfc3109faacc

Liam Sparano (K, Ms Hawkins class) has received already 6 leaves ” I eat healthy snacks to get energy to grow big and strong like Superman”.

Trinity Elementary School students are proudly pasting paper leaves with their names to the Waste Free Tree that is taking up most of the wall in the front lobby. This Waste Free Tree symbolizes the change Trinity students are making in terms of snack packaging. Only students whose mid morning snack is completely waste free will earn a leaf and the opportunity to paste it to the tree. Students that are waste free and also super healthy will be able to earn a bonus leaf. And ….. this tree is sprouting leaves like crazy!

Jayden Henry has received 5 leaves. Jayden said, “I tell my Mommy I need a healthy snack every day”

Valeria Gutierrez has 4 leaves- She said, “I remind my Daddy in the morning to not use plastic baggies and I need fruit or rice cakes for snack”

We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized in bringing large scale sustainability programs to schools was hired to turn New Rochelle on a path toward sustainability.  4 presenters did class by class presentations to over 1000 students, helping them make the connection that snacks that are healthy for their body are often also healthy for the Earth as they come naturally unpackaged.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven kindergarten students, when presented with a picture of the packaging waste of classroom snack knew immediately that most of that food belonged into the category of junk food. When asked if that food was healthy for their body, they all enthusiastically replied “no”. They listed the commonly known reasons on why not to eat junk food,  even the littlest ones knew the connection to obesity, diabetes and dental decay, amazing.

Tanya Kadaru has received 6 leaves  “My parents give me fruits and vegetables for snacks. They want me to stay healthy and get a lot of sleep so I can learn”.
Teachers are reporting a decrease in plastic baggies and more reusable containers. More students are bringing in water in thermoses to drink and skipping the juice boxes.
Trinity Elementary School is a shining example of how we can create a generation of kids that care through environmental education, and how it changes communities as well.

 

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.

 

Rye’s Midland Elementary School Reduces Waste by 97%

Today was a big day at Rye’s Midland Elementary School. With great support and enthusiasm of Principal Jim Boylan, Assistant Principal Joanna Napolitano and the PTO, under the leadership of Cali Gibbs and Emily Keenan, Midland’s students made a huge splash of a difference!

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The We Future Cycle team went from classroom to classroom to present the program, show the different materials, answer questions, model the process and stir up a big energetic frenzy to save the world. These students were READY to make a difference.

993a8b47-09cd-42e7-ad0f-7319ff71c8e6In the lunchroom the newly installed station was put into action, and despite the most challenging of lunch menu days, which is brunch for lunch with syrup containers, the students pulled off a flawless sorting.

The results speak for themselves. From 161 lbs of total waste:

Liquid = 65 lbs (40.4%)
Cartons = 8 lbs (5%)
Commingled plastics = 13.5 lbs (8.4%)
Compost (food and paper) = 42.5 lbs (26.4%)
Trays = 27.5 lbs (17%)
Trash = 4.5 lbs (2.8%)

Only 2.8% of the entire lunchroom waste was actually trash!

A 97% diversion into recycling and composting streams is really outstanding. Though what is even more astounding is the small amount of food waste. We are seeing usually more like 50-60% food waste in public schools with the NY State Lunch Program, but this school leaves all food choices up the students, there is no “you have to take these items to qualify for a full lunch” which results in MUCH less food waste and we also practically did not have a share basket of unopened food. Truly a wonderful thing!

While we are celebrating this fabulous result, we are also seeing some areas of opportunity when it comes to single serve offerings from food service. Principal Boylan realized that single serve ketchup pouches, syrup containers, hand wipes and others are making it very hard for students to timely sort their lunch waste.  The equation is easy…… “what goes in, must come out.” Mr Boylan will see how he can help his students do an even better job sorting their lunch waste into recycling and composting by managing the incoming flow of packaging and possibly switching to squeeze bottles and other dispensers.

We Future Cycle will continue to support Midland Elementary School for one week and we are sure that the hand off to the local champions as well as the very enthusiastic and supportive PTO will lead to it being embedded into the culture of the school very quickly, becoming the “new normal”.

New Rochelle Webster Elementary School is back!

unnamedNew Rochelle ‘s Daniel Webster Elementary School under the leadership of Melissa Passarelli and Greg Middleton has just moved back into their building.

In August of 2015 roof problems necessitated for the whole school to be moved to another building. A mammoth undertaking. Moving back into the original building offered the opportunity to do a refresher student training and recycling program set up, so that students and staff can again be the leader among New Rochelle’s schools when it comes to sustainability.

We Future Cycle staff members went from classroom to classroom and did grade level education with the students. Students learned where “away” is when one talks about throwing something away, and even kindergarten students understood very quickly, that “away” is not a nice place.

unnamed (1)Learning to identify materials and realizing that one just needs to put them in the right bin for them to be recycled was easily understood. Webster students all pledged to make a difference and they put that pledge to the test at the newly rolled out lunchroom recycling station. Three 5th grade students helped us to do a waste audit afterwards, and we had a wonderful helper at the station teaching her fellow students, especially the little ones. Thank you, Webster Students.

From 163 lbs of sorted out waste only 4.5 lbs were actually trash.

That is a 97% reduction. Truly wonderful.

While this reduction is fabulous, a 4.5 lbs bag of trash containing exclusively single serve soft plastic wrappers or drink pouches is quite voluminous. Single serve packaging goes hand in hand with highly processed foods, not a good basis for a healthy diet to support good learning. Webster’s Principal Melissa Passarelli is getting ready to tackle this last piece to become a truly waste free facility.