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NYC Sophomores Write Anti Pollution Legislative Bill

This spring, a class of sophomores at Avenues: The World School in Manhattan, New
York City, studied and researched the detrimental effects of carbon emission and plastic waste.

The excessive plastic waste that humans generate can have many devastating consequences, from contaminating various bodies of water and harming wildlife, to polluting beaches and negatively affecting human health. Avenues’ Class of 2020 sought to make an effort to spread awareness about this issue and, ultimately reduce the waste that humans generate in their daily lives. In order to accomplish this goal and actually create a change, students decided to focus on a specific aspect that could be changed — one that is realistic, familiar and tangible.

This involves the excessive plastic consumption by New York public schools when serving lunches to students. Specifically, the target was attempting to eliminate the usage of Styrofoam trays in school cafeterias, incentivizing schools to use compostable materials instead. Styrene, the main component of polystyrene, is classified as a potential carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The material can take up to one million years to decompose in a landfill — making it a primary pollutant, especially since the material often leaks into water, where animals ingest the dangerous chemicals that polystyrene effuses. New York City public school systems consume approximately 850,000 single-use polystyrene trays per day and every one of those trays negatively affects the environment.

Thus, Avenues students believed that a necessary measure to take was to promote the
usage of compostable trays, which decompose into a natural environment without leaving any traces of toxicity in the soil and have no adverse effects on the planet, rather than Styrofoam.

Many efforts to reduce polystyrene usage have already been made in school districts across the United States, having beneficial effects. Polystyrene was initially outlawed in New York City in July 2015, but this ban was then overturned, backed by one of the largest manufacturers of polystyrene containers: the Restaurant Action Alliance and the Dart Container Corporation.

However, it was reinstated in November 2017, as part of an effort to reach Mayor Bill de
Blasio’s One NYC zero-waste goal by 2030. Avenues sophomores hope to spread this initiative to the rest of New York, beyond the confines of the five boroughs of New York City.

After deciding to reform the process by which school lunches are packaged and served to
students in public schools in order to help make New York more sustainable, the class composed a legislation that incentivized schools to stop using non-biodegradable trays to serve lunches and replace them with those that are compostable. This was achieved by imposing a 5% tax deduction for school lunch that is served using compostable materials. The legislation created by the students states that the deduction will decrease by 1% every year for the first five years that this law is in place, thereby creating an incentive for schools to use compostable materials sooner rather than later.

This legislation, which was subsequently referred to Paul D. Tonko, U.S. Representative of New York’s 20th congressional district, presents a realistic way to become more environmentally conscientious and reduce excessive generation of non-compostable waste.
The protocol described by the legislation, which aims to take effect on the first day of
August 2018 (prior to the start of the 2018-2019 academic year) aims to further efforts that have already been taken to promote sustainability and permanently force all schools to use biodegradable materials at all times — thereby decreasing their carbon footprints altogether, rather than using harmful, non-compostable materials. Prior to writing the actual bill, the team at Avenues researched ways to make a difference, contacting New York public school districts and inquiring about their lunch policies and, specifically, whether they served lunches on Styrofoam trays. Depending on their district, the policies to which schools adhered seemed to vary slightly and many schools seemed to be moving away from Styrofoam trays in their cafeterias, although some still used them.

For instance, students spoke with representatives from every public school
district in White Plains, Rye and New Rochelle, New York and each had implemented a program to only use biodegradable materials in their lunches, rather than plastic which is used in public schools throughout much of the United States.

Each of the districts credited their program to We Future Cycle, a 501c3 charitable organization that guides public school districts in New York towards sustainability and encourages them to generate as little excessive waste as possible, in a conscious effort to, “create a generation of children that are actively involved in recycling and take responsibility for their daily actions,” as their mission states. Instead of working with local congressmen and the government, We Future Cycle contacts each individual district and works with schools to determine feasible ways to reduce waste generation in daily life, such as the processes of vermiculture and teaching children and parents how to pack waste-free lunches. The organization establishes partnerships with others who have developed programs to “bring otherwise non-recyclable items into reusable channels.” Furthermore, We Future Cycle strives to teach students to be responsible and informed consumers, by offering several educational programs directed towards a variety of ages. The founder of this non-profit, Anna Giordano, stated that she started this organization after she witnessed the excessive amount of waste created by her children’s school and suddenly became aware that she needed to take action.

Today, forty  schools in Westchester, New York participate in We Future Cycle and
several organizations in the area endorse the charity, or are affiliated in some way. This number is steadily growing as its outreach expands.

We Future Cycle hopes to empower students, the future of the United States, to become leaders in their community and have their voices heard.
The organization implements these beliefs in children from young ages, so that by the time they are older, they are environmentally-conscious and able to truly make the world a better place in the long-term. Organizations like We Future Cycle and the Avenues sophomores are collaborating to continue their missions of spreading awareness about climate change and the threats of pollution.

As these issues becomes more prevalent in society every day, it is becoming increasingly
important to be informed. In doing this, more opportunities are being created, creating grounds for case studies on these issues in the future. These organizations illuminate that major changes are not what is necessary and, small-scale lifestyle changes such as recycling scrap paper, bottles and cans, or composting leftovers, can actually make a world of difference.

If people are to recognize the extent of the damage that excessive waste generation causes to the environment and themselves, they are more likely to revise their daily routines to become more environmentally-conscious and begin to think, rather than carelessly discarding materials into a landfill where they will remain for millenia. For further information on ways to become more environmentally-conscious, explore We Future Cycle’s website and to learn more about Avenues’ Class of 2020 and their work in forming their own legislation to help the planet, click here.

~ Isabel Mudannayake and Angelo Orciuoli, representatives of the Avenues’ Class of
2020

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White Plains Eastview Middle School Joins We Future Cycle Program

A big shout out to White Plains’ Eastview Middle School Principal Joseph Cloherty who boldy went where no-one has gone before. Right on day one of the school year 2016-17 he had his incoming 6th graders sort their waste for the first time using the We Future Cycle Lunchroom Recycling Program.

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Principal Cloherty knew that consistency and continuity are important lessons to learn, as 3/5th of his incoming student body was coming from White Plains elementary schools which already run the We Future Cycle program: Ridgeway, Church St and Post Rd.

Eastview Middle School is for 6th graders alone, and it is under construction right now with wonderful upgrades in the making, but not quite finished yet.  So, adding to the challenges of being in a new building and learning the new recycling system on Day One of school, students were also dealing with an unfinished cafeteria that was serving packaged box lunches, instead of cooked meals.

However, with the help of the custodial staff under head custodian Cristian Reyes and the Teaching Assistants under Ms. Julie, students were guided through the process by the experienced We Future Cycle staff. Students and staff learned quickly and after 6 days of sorting, we have proudly achieved a 91% reduction in waste because of students who do correct and independent sorting.

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Recovered Food from half of one lunch period

A waste audit showed that Eastview students divert daily 91 % of their waste into composting and recycling.  They also save 65  lbs  of untouched foods from going into the garbage every day. Sixy-five pounds of untouched food translates into 4 crates of milk cartons, fruit cups, carrot sticks,  yogurt cups, wrapped sandwiches, and cheese sticks. This food is now recovered and donated, thanks to the wonderful food service crew under leadership of Manager Laura Ackerly.

Eastview Middle School is doing a phenomenal job and next year its graduates will be moving the program up the line into Highland Middle school for 7th and 8th grade. Growing the program through the grades is how it becomes second nature to all ages, bringing change not only to the students and the school, but also to the communities that these students call home.

 

White Plains School District is Solving the Individual Ketchup Pouch Problem

tumblr_kxhn6hra6r1qz8u8ho1_400Individual ketchup pouches are an environmental nightmare in school lunchrooms. The students tend to take them by the fistful, they are fun to step on, and they always end up in the source separated food waste as contaminant. So, why is it so difficult to get rid of them?

Commercial Food service providers list their convenience as the number one reason for usage.

However, convenience for Food Service Providers comes with a high price tag to the schools.

White Plains School District Food Service Director Ed Marra has eliminated individual Ketchup pouches from all schools, replacing them with refillable squeeze bottles, saving money and the environment.

And under the guidance of Laura Mungin, Principal of George Washington Elementary School, the Teaching Assistants are going even further by actually serving the kids as they want, thus making sure nobody is just pumping the pump for the fun of it. A win win situation. Students experience individual care, food is not wasted nor abused as toy, and students are learning proper table behavior.

The advantages are clear.

We Future Cycle is working for years to eliminate single service Ketchup pouches from the menu of the many districts we are working in. May White Plains GW Elementary school be a shining example that there are much better ways than giving in to the convenience of commercial Food Service Providers.

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!

 

 

Worms, Worms, Glorious Worms, White Plains Ridgeway Students LOVE their new friends

Recently White Plains Ridgeway 2nd grade students learned all about how important worms are for this world. They listened to a presentation about them, and got down and dirty to check them out up close and personal.

And now they are taking care of them and are writing about them. Check out what Maria and Saul have to say about them.

Worms Are Awesome!

By Saul Leon Huerta and Maria Clara Bornia

Worms Are Awesome! Worms are important for our environment because they eat food waste and then poop out rich soil. The worm poop is called castings.  Their poop has a lot of nutrients for the soil and is good for all the plants. This is called compost. They eat our food waste, which doesn’t only help them but helps Worms eat half their body weight every day! Worms have to stay under the soil and the leaves so they don’t dry up and die. They have to be moist. Our class is learning about worms and worm composting. We are trying to recycle and reuse stuff so it cannot go into the landfill. We set up a worm composting bin in our class. It is called vermiculture. Our worms eat our natural snack waste. We gave them banana peel, watermelon, and strawberry. We made a hypothesis to predict what food they would eat first. Most of us guessed watermelon. We observed for a week and discovered they ate more watermelon. Our hypothesis was correct! Next we will give them an apple core. We think they will love it!

New Rochelle Barnard Students Fundraising To Cut Down On Trash

DSCN2383Under the leadership of Deatra Bailey, 2nd grade teacher at Barnard, students are combining lessons of economics with being environmental. To raise money for reusable sandwich pouches as part of the ongoing effort to cut down on single serve packaging that ends up in the trash, Students are selling healthy snacks taking turns to be the cashier or accountant of the operation.

Barnard Elementary school has students from Pre-K to 2nd grade, but even the kindergarten students are now old hands at sorting their waste.

Barnard joined the We Future Cycle program in January and has been exemplary in continuously teaching environmental awareness. Recently the students learned how to become waste free at snack time. Each time they bring in a completely waste free snack, they are rewarded with a leaf, this leaf, complete with name goes onto a tree in the lobby of the school, to be admired by everyone.

DSCN2381Barnard is now sporting a veritable forest of trees.

 

 

White Plains Ridgeway’s 2nd graders welcome their “new friends”

Picture1Meet the new “friends” of Ridgeway’s Ms. Vendola’s second grade. Eager students learned all about the wonders of worm composting, or technically called Vermiculture.

We Future Cycle Executive Director Anna Giordano brought her composting friends to share with the students. Primed and prepared by Ms. Vendola, Students learned in a presentation about how worms eat, breathe, live and of course….poop. The worm casting is what makes vermiculture so desirable, talking about fertilizer on steroids!

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After learning about it, students got to check things out for themselves. On wet paper towels, in a darkened room, each student, armed and dangerous with a magnifying glass looked for baby worms and cocoons. They learned how worms can move and checked out the bristles on the underside (yes, worms have an underside) of the worm that helps them to move.  Picture3

And then we built their very own worm bin and some of Anna Giordano’s “friends” have a new home now at White Plains Ridgeway Elementary School. Students will do scientific observations as to what foods are preferred by the worms, how long it takes for an apple core to be consumed and how fast the worms multiply in a friendly environment. A fascinating, hands-on experience for the students.