Tag Archives: lunchroom

Adopt A School To Provide Environmental Programming

Help us bring environmental education programs to schools.

We Future Cycle is providing challenging environmental programs to schools, all as stand alone curriculum add-on programs to teach students about how their every day actions can make a big difference.

  1. Environmental Footprint of Aluminum: (grade 5-9) Do you know where aluminum comes from?  It comes from Bauxite, a type of stone that contains various alumina minerals. Mining for bauxite involves cutting down trees in rain forests, destroying animal habitats and causing water and soil erosion. Students learn in detail how aluminum is created, and also the importance of recycling aluminum because it can be used over and over again.
  2. Science of Compost: (grade 4-7) After learning to source-separate their food and paper waste in the lunchroom, students know that the material is trucked away to be turned into compost, but how does the transformation happen?  In classroom presentations including slides and video, students will learn the science of mixing “greens” with “browns” with the appropriate amount of moisture to create nutrient rich compost. They will also learn about how putting organic matter in landfills contributes to climate change.
  3. Vermiculture: (grade K – 3) There are number of ways that organic waste (food and paper) are broken down to nourish our soil, and one is vermiculture, or worm composting.  In classroom-by-classroom presentation from a WFC expert, students will learn how worms are used to decompose organic waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material that can provide nutrients for sustainable plant growth. Students will learn that every living being has an important job to do and after getting up and close to a bunch of worms, most kids end up naming their worms. (Jeffrey seems to be the name of choice, and sometimes “wormy”)
  4. Planting a Trash Garden: (grade K-3) Students are learning about what is organic and inorganic and they learn how materials interact with the environment over time. It opens their eyes to the litter problem surrounding them as well as make them compassionate about being a change agent. A scientific experiment makes this very tangible for the students.
  5. Water Water Water: (grade 5-10) Students will learn about water, how it gets into the homes and what happens to it when it leaves, they learn the working of a Waste Water Treatment Plants, touch upon Waste Water to Drinking Water, Desalination and what the hype about bottled water is about. A water filtration activity for the students caps the lesson off.
  6. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch:(grade 5 – 12) Students are learning about the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the role of ocean currents, and how this affects wild life and the food chain. They also learn about prevention and mitigation in process. This program is very much centered around how people rise up to meet these challenges, it is meant to show students that nobody is too small to make a big difference. Never underestimate the power of one.
  7. Milk Cartons: (grade 3-6) This program explores packaging over time and how single serve packaging came about. Milk cartons are prevalent in any lunchroom in America, but few students know how a milk carton is made.  Students will learn how paperboard and waterproof plastic are blended to make a liquid-proof container, and thus why recycling cartons is a unique process.  Note that Westchester County only started recycling milk cartons in May 2016 and this program will aid to get the information back into the homes.
  8. E-waste/Electronic Equipment: (grade 6-11) What is E-waste and what does it take to make electronic devices that end up as e-waste. How are the devices disposed off and what are the human, environmental and social ramifications of E-Waste. This is also covering jobs in the recycling industry and how students can become involved in innovative technologies.
  9. 9. “Did you know” poster lunchroom education scavenger hunt (grade 3-6): this is an indoor recess activity to make students aware of the environmental foot print of materials they use every day, often without a second thought like straws, plastic bags etc. Searching for clues and filling in blanks is fun to do and they are learning without even noticing it.
  10. 10. The social and environmental impact of textiles: (grade 8-12) this program explores where clothing comes from, what it takes to make them, the social and environmental costs attached to clothing and why textile recycling is so important.
  11. 11. Galapagos, how islands deal with garbage: (grade 8 – 12) Exploring how other nations deal with waste, highlighting Galapagos.
  12. What is recycling? (grade 2-6) What happens to the material we put into the recycling bin, where does it go and what becomes of it. Learning how scientific concepts of gravity, magnetism, anti current, friction and resistance are used to sort materials for recycling. This program also focuses on reduce and reuse education
  13. What is Fracking (grades 8-12) an introduction into energy exploration and the environmental consequences to the oil and gas industry. What does it take to keep society going? Glimpsing into oil and gas exploration, as well as introducing renewable energy sources and how each student can make a difference by being energy literate.
  14. Coal and its environmental footprint (grade 8-12) This presentation examines how coal is mined and processed to be burned to make electricity, it describes the human , social and environmental costs. Renewable energy sources are introduced and contrasted.

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.

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 Barnard Second Grade Student astonishes with wistful knowledge “Garbage goes to the Incinerator”

Sitting on the carpet surrounded by a group of New Rochelle Barnard students and doing a presentation about recycling is one of my favorite activities. I just love helping students make a very important mental transition. When I show students  a bunch of empty packaging material, one will invariably sneer at it and call it trash.

Walking them through the fact that empty packaging is not trash, but rather material for new things is the most rewarding, because children get it so fast. They understand what it means to play with things over and over again, if you just put it in the right bin.

At some point, I ask the students where they think “away” is, when they talk about throwing something away. I usually get a variety of answers ranging from “the garbage truck” all the way to “the dump”.

Today, however, at Barnard Elementary School in New Rochelle, I was blown away as a 2nd grader very casually answered : “Garbage goes to the incinerator”.

And that is exactly right.

Westchester burns 2500 tons of garbage every single day at its Wheelabrator Facility located in Peekskill NY. At a price tag of close to $80 a ton to just drop the stuff onto the tipping floor, Westchester is looking at a whopping $200,000 per day cost just to burn our garbage into our air. (long pause to let this sink in)
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In a school, 95-98 % of the waste can be recycled, if it is just sorted out. The same applies to Westchester’s garbage of 48% organic, 33 % paper and 16% Commingled recycling.

We have fabulous technology like an I-phone, but we cannot sort our garbage so that 95% can get recycled instead of getting burnt into our air?

Well, New Rochelle Barnard Students have just joined the growing group of schools that say “Yes, we can make a difference, a huge difference” And that is exactly what they did.

From 84 lbs of waste, only one single pound was trash, all the rest was sorted in the right bin and fed into compost, recycling or down the drain as liquid waste.

I call that making a huge difference!

 

 

WFC Documentary “Columbus Makes a Huge Difference”

This short documentary features the journey of a school from 22 bags weighing 400 lbs , to fully sorting its waste, reducing overall garbage by a whopping 98% while diverting valuable resources into recycling and composting, and sending 55 lbs of untouched food to the soup kitchen, that would have gone into the garbage otherwise.

Oscar-worthy performances by all grades at New Rochelle Columbus Elementary Students.

New Rochelle Columbus Students On the Big Screen

c015385b-7b1d-45de-9b62-307f4f56a45eNew Rochelle Columbus Elementary School celebrated its Red Carpet Affair on Thursday evening. Students walked on a red carpet, donned in their finest to the auditorium to see themselves on the big screen.

Columbus Students were filmed as part of a documentary about how introduction of sustainability education can change a community. A film crew came in to capture the students doing a waste audit and filming the unbelievable amounts of waste generated in a school without recycling. And the film crew followed the students on their journey to learn to sort their waste in the lunchroom, all the way to the celebration to show case that Columbus reduced its garbage from 400 lbs to just 8 lbs, a 98% reduction, through diversion into recycling and composting. Students shared what they learned and how they will continue to make a difference.

9f151755-49ee-438e-8fe6-9bde62110180Just like at the Oscar’s the “actors” were interviewed to share their thoughts. Proud students were either the interviewer or the interviewee, asking questions about what the students have learned from the on-going recycling program in their lunchroom, how their parents made differences in their households, now that the students learned about recycling. The answers were heartfelt and sincere. Clearly, Columbus students know that their actions count and each and every one can make a difference.

The lobby was filled with educational displays on how to make a waste free lunch and the PTA was offering reusable sandwich boxes, waterbottles, and shopping bags for sale.

Principal Sonia Nunez welcomed everybody warmly to the auditorium, thanked especially the green students who are unwavering in their support of the lunchroom station and explained to the parents how this documentary came about. And then lights were dimmed and the show began.