Tag Archives: environmental education

New Rochelle’s Jefferson Elementary School down to 1.2% Garbage

3 lbs of trash, all the rest goes into compost or recyclingThis is what 254 lbs of lunchroom waste look like, and — believe it or not—- only 3 lbs of it, was actually trash. Everything else is being fed into food waste composting and recycling.  72 lbs went as left over liquid down the drain, and the students sorted 15.5 lbs of untouched food out to donate to the local soup kitchen.

That is a whopping 98.8% reduction.  Seriously …. way to go.

Jefferson Elementary School under the leadership of Kim Nieves and LeAnn Bruno has always been on New Rochelle’s forefront to bring sustainability to their students.

Already in 2011, when the We Future Cycle Recycling program was in its infancy and New Rochelle was still serving its students on Styrofoam trays, Ms Nieves and Ms Bruno knew that making the students partners and teaching them to care and sort is a life long skill.

Fortunately, after a 5 year battle, Styrofoam is permanently off the menu in New Rochelle and We Future Cycle gives full credit for this to Jeff White, Assistant Superintendent of Business. Mr White, being new to the district, saw immediately the incredible social, educational and environmental value that the program offers to the children and understood that serving our young ones on a material that contains Styrene, a chemical that has recently been classified as “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” was inappropriate, no matter how much less expensive it might be.

Jefferson adjusted its program to follow We Future Cycle’s guidelines, so all New Rochelle schools are set up exactly the same.  We Future Cycle is enjoying working with Jefferson’s enthusiastic recyclers. There is nothing as rewarding as having a kindergarten student hug your leg and say thank you for teaching her to recycle.

 

 

 

New Rochelle Columbus Kindergarten students Hard At Work For the Environment

Every day at lunch, Columbus Elementary school has about 15 enthusiastic students helping at the recycling station. My favorite group are the kindergarteners.

They cannot even look over the rim of the bin, but they are excited recyclers. When they come into the lunchroom, they first run over to me to ask if they can help. Of course they can help, but they are all sent to go and eat first. After a while, they start showing up, first carefully sorting their own tray and then proudly taking their position behind the station.

The most critical position is watching over the food waste bin to make sure no plastic or other contaminants end up in it, and the second most important job is the correct stacking of the trays.  Meet  Jose, the Master of the trays.  I just love this little boy!

The German International School of NY launching on-site food composting with We Future Cycle

fdc93e79-289d-458e-936e-c3c74b34d25cThe lunchroom in the German School in White Plains resembles more an upscale restaurant then a school lunchroom. You will find a decorative salad bar, a drink dispenser, a milk dispenser with your choice of 1% milk or 1% chocolate milk, a juice and sparkling water dispenser, the dessert counter with the fresh fruit of the day in a sun light filled high ceiling room, with light wood round tables. The food is all prepared on site, with the daily soup, vegetarian choices and meat dish.

b39b7799-e043-4e2e-b656-1efb956b6ecaChef Paul Boos, Food Service Director with Compass USA, personally serves the students and the school is proudly looking upon a 100% participation rate among students.

b8649d72-a671-4444-9da9-d94f088dd8b6The school uses only reusable dish and flatware and students are returning their trays to a counter that leads to the dishroom.

Now, GISNY, under the leadership of Edward Schlieben, administrator and a very active Green Team is launching into food composting on site. The handsome garden is visible right from the lunchroom and it is the logical next step in their journey to zero waste.

Come January 2016, students will be scraping their food waste into the compost bucket instead of garbage and the student green team will manage the compost bins. We Future Cycle is proud to be helping the GISNY on their path to truly zero waste.

 

Journal News covering We Future Cycle Recycling Program at Ridgeway Elementary

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.

Hasting’s Little Leaf Nursery Students Learning About Recycling and they truly get it!

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Circle time sorting materials into recycling bins

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.

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Carefully checking material to pictures on label, good job!

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.

 

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sorting aluminum foil with commingled

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!

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Food waste goes into the new froggie bin

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filling leaves into the tumbler

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!

White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School reduces garbage by 95%

White Plains Ridgeway Elementary school was chosen as one of the pilots to implement the We Future Cycle School lunch recycling program.

With enthusiastic support from Assistant Principal James Graziano  Ridgeway students learned  in assemblies that packaging is not trash but material for new things, they learned where the garbage goes when it is not sorted or recyclable, and they all agreed that they did not want to live next to a dump nor an incinerator. For good measures, they also agreed that animals probably won’t like living next to one either.

The custodial staff, under leadership of Pedro Molina, was super supportive, helping to set up the recycling station, going way out of their way to make the school a success. On Halloween a full bodied Batman was helping students at the recycling station. How fabulous is that!

Ridgeway had 124 lbs of waste of which only 6 lbs were actual trash, all other was either liquid, food waste, milk cartons or commingled recycling. A whopping 95% reduction. Now, that is truly something to write home about.

Ridgunnamed (5)eway’s parents came to “do lunch” with their children, helping to train the students in the new sorting system.  It takes active supervision and guidance to teach 700 students to sort and these parents were up to the task, fully supporting the efforts of the school to create a generation of kids that care.

White Plains Church St Students are learning about “away”

When you say ” I am throwing something away” , where is “away”?

That is a question  students at Church St Elementary school learned the answer to. And they didn’t like it, not one bit.

Looking at pictures of land fills and incinerators brought even the littlest students to a open mouthed gasp.  November 6th 2015 was launch date of the We Future Cycle Recycling program at Church St and it started with assemblies to all students in the auditorium. In a lively presentation, students learned to look differently at packaging material. What they first considered trash, they saw later as raw material for new things, the premise of recycling.  What they first saw as a yummy snack, they later saw as food that created trash because of its unrecyclable packaging.  They also learned just how much garbage is generated at a school, something they had never thought of before. And they learned, that most of what they generate can be recycled if it was just sorted out. Now they are chomping at the bit to start sorting.

DSCN19056 Safety Squat students were chosen to assist with the “before recycling” waste audit. They stood open mouthed in front of the 15 bags of bulging trash. They weighed each bag, we calculated totals, looked at median bag weights, offered suggestions why some bags were much heavier then others, while not being necessarily more bulky.  Suggestions included that the bags may have come from younger students as there was more heavy food and more left over liquid in these bags.

Church St generated that day 15 bags of trash, weighing a total of 204 lbs. Anna Giordano, from We Future Cycle, asked the students to imagine what a ton of garbage looked like. Step by step, the students worked to identify that 200  of their own lunchroom bags would equal 2000 lbs. Upon learning that Westchester Ct generates more then 2300 tons of garbage per day, one boy sadly commented “and that is just Westchester”. A very mature deduction from a 5th grader.

From Monday Nov 9th, Church St students will be separating their lunchroom waste into waste liquid, milk cartons, commingled and food waste and the students are looking forward to diverting an estimated 90% away from trash and into recycling.

Church St is all geared up to make a difference. Way to go!

 

 

 

We Future Cycle and Eco Pel join forces to bring Textile Recycling to Pelham Town Clean up

P1000843On October 24th at 10 am 60 Pelham residents arrived, ready to tackle the problem of litter. EcoPel, the organizer, joined forces with We Future Cycle to include in this 4th year clean up, also textile recycling.

As grassroots, non-partisan organization in Pelham NY concerned with environmental issues, it is important to get the message out, and this year EcoPel is concentrating on schools and textiles.   There is a ground swell of concerned citizens and EcoPel was pleased to have this fantastic turn out.

unnamed (3)A make shift donation area supervised by students was set up and loads of textiles were brought to be recycled, rather then being disposed of in the trash. These textiles went into a Spin Green Textile recycling bin at the Columbus Elementary School in New Rochelle. A win win situation. Pelham was able to divert textile from the waste, educated their citizens and Columbus is able to receive the revenue from the bin for their students.

EcoPel successfully integrated the use social media to spread the word to the adults in the Pelham community as well as the local papers.  This year EcoPel also integrated the local church into their campaign, as the event was featured on the weekly church bulletin.

All of Pelhams High School and Middle Scholl students are required to complete community service hours to graduate.   EcoPel contacted many teachers and guidance counselors at the schools to get the word out to the students.  At the events the names of the participating students were collected so appropriate credit can be given.

unnamed (1)A success event, due to diligent work of the EcoPel members getting the word out, and now the knowledge that textiles are recyclable is starting to grow roots.  Way to go!

New Rochelle’s Elementary Schools Recycle 2,000 lbs of Textiles In 3 Months.

New Rochelle’s Webster and Columbus Elementary Schools are extending their sustainability efforts beyond their successful lunchrooms. We Future Cycle introduced Textile Recycling through Spin Green as a fabulous fundraiser and both school principals eagerly embraced the initiative.

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According to the EPA, Americans discard 13.1 million tons of textiles per year and there is only a 15% recycling rate. Many people give nice things as hand-me-downs away, but what to do with the stained T-shirt, the holed toddler jeans or –gasp– the underwear with the rip……?  Easy…recycle them in our Spin Green Textile Recycling Bin.

unnamed (7)We parents know how fast children grow and what clothes look like after a few months on an active child, but instead of discarding them into the trash, consider supporting the schools by donating them into their recycling bins. Any dirty sock, ripped sheet, old stuffed animal can go, anything that is clothy. Even shoes, sleeping bags, old blankets.

Once donated the textiles go one of these routes.

  1. The re-use avenue where usable clothes are sorted out and sold through second hand clothing stores or thrift shops.
  2.  The recycle avenue where the clothes are sorted according to material and then shredded down for its fiber to be used as rags or as stuffing for car seats and other applications.

goodwill_12smDiscarded textiles come with a huge price tag to society. They account for 4.9% of the municipal waste.

For Westchester, with its 2,000 tons/day garbage about 100 tons are discarded textiles EVERY DAY. At around $80 per ton tipping fee (which is just the cost to dump the load onto the incinerator floor, no transportation or labor cost are included yet, and of course no secondary cost such as road repair or environmental consideration), tax payers are footing an $8000.00 bill every day to make a resource -literally- disappear into thin air.

To learn more about the footprint of textiles here is a very interesting article.

The textile industry, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is the 5th largest contributor to CO2 emissions in the United States, after primary metals, nonmetallic mineral products, petroleum and chemicals.

The textile industry is huge, and it is a huge producer of greenhouse gasses.  Today’s textile industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses (GHG’s) on Earth, due to its huge size. In 2008,  annual global textile production was estimated at  60 billion kilograms (KG) of fabric.  The estimated energy and water needed to produce that amount of fabric boggles the mind:

  • 1,074 billion kWh of electricity  or 132 million metric tons of coal and
  • between 6 – 9 trillion liters of water

Thanks to Melissa Passarelli and Sonia Nunez, students of Columbus and Webster are learning about the importance of recycling textiles.

Update: Carton Recycling Integration Finally Planned for February 2016 in Westchester County

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Update:

Louis Vitrone just shared that the upgrade equipment is being purchased and a February 2016 start date is being envisioned. That is great news for  Westchester, as it will take an additional 1% of resources out of the waste stream and turn it into revenue for the County.

Original article from 2014:

Milk cartons and juice boxes are a common sight in schools, and so far they are being trashed in Westchester County. In New York City, they are part of the Commingled recycling stream.

We have worked closely with Louis Vitrone, Deputy Commissioner  and Marianne Patronella, Director for Resource Management from Westchester County Environmental Service to bring carton recycling to Westchester. Just in November another meeting between the County and the Carton Council took place to find ways to make it work.

Part of the problem is that if a material is added to a recycling stream, it can really only be recycled if it is sorted. This sorting is done by a complicated sorting system which includes among other optical scanners to identify materials and then sort it via air stream into the correct container. The optical scanner itself is available and manageable in cost, but because Westchester’s Material Recovery Facility was one of the first built, its building doesn’t lend itself to easy equipment changes and the upgrading of the system is complicated and needs proper planning.  Yesterday’s meeting was a giant step in the right direction.

Schools that are using commercial carters such as Suburban Carting can already recycle their milk cartons as it is brought to a different facility that can sort out milk cartons.

Cartons are about 1% of Westchester’s waste stream and are a very valuable resource.

Here is a little educational youtube clip how easy it can be.