Tag Archives: environmentaleducation

Mt Vernon Lincoln 2nd graders study material interaction in the environment

What happens to stuff when we throw it “away”?

Walking through the fictional example of sitting on a park bench, eating a sandwich and throwing the left over and the plastic bag into the environment, students learned about how organic and inorganic materials interact with water and wind.

Students learned about the detrimental effects of littering to our animal world, in particular the marine life. Students reacted with utter shock to learn that the litter on our streets goes unfiltered with the rain water into our oceans and there it is mistaken for food by marine life that will die a painful and slow death.

Students pledged to never litter and to be the change agents of their community to educate them about caring for this world.

A fun, but slightly, messy science experiment capped off the lesson and students were asked to write about 3 things they learned.

Mt Vernon Lincoln students truly learned that their actions matter, every single day.

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.

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Mt Vernon Lincoln Ave school reduces garbage by 97%

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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!