“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.