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Earth Day 2018…Who is with me? Transforming a Science Teacher to Become Green.

We Future Cycle is very proud to have inspired Mrs McCue to not only become green but also to share with all of us her story.

“Mrs. McCue, are you going to stop buying bottled water?” asked one of my students gathered around me at the door, waiting for the bell to ring. Forty eyes were on me. We had just heard a We Future Cycle guest speaker teach us about water treatment and the perils of too much plastic in our world. I looked over at my desk and spied one small water bottle I had gotten that day at a school event, and two half-filled water bottles I had brought from home. “Yes – I should, shouldn’t I?”   I thought to myself, “I have no excuse. Our tap water is fine! I have several reusable beverage containers taking up space in my kitchen cabinet. Why don’t I fill those daily, like I bring my lunch to school every day? If I am going to teach these students to be responsible caretakers of the earth, I should begin by modeling responsible earth-friendly behavior!

Of course I should! Aside from hearing this message loud and clear from Anna Giordano, I had been prompted as well by a few recent news stories. The visual of the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean haunted me, as did the horrific photo of the sea turtle with a plastic straw being extracted from its nose. The focus on this year’s Earth Day 2018 is: End Plastic Pollution. It’s time for me to practice what I preach.

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Several days after this “no-more-bottled-water-epiphany”, at the start of spring break, I found myself on a beach out in Long Island. It was a sunny, windy, 45 degree day, so there was not another person on this long stretch of beach. Two seagulls eyed me as I walked by, snapping their photo. I was noticing the beach erosion from several recent nor’easters and began to think about some other results of these storms. An entire tree lay on the sand. “What else may have washed in during these storms?” I thought.  As I walked along, I admired the rocks and shells, my reverie interrupted by an occasional plastic straw. I noticed a pink plastic wrist coil keychain. Then I saw remnants of a purple balloon. It looked like a piece of seaweed – this could easily be mistaken for seaweed by a hungry creature! I thought of the sea turtle as I placed the balloon remnant alongside some seaweed and snapped a photo. “I can’t just leave it there now”, I thought. If I am going to show my class this picture to illustrate the dangers of plastic in a sea creature’s diet, they will certainly ask if I removed that plastic from the beach!  So I grabbed a stick and picked up the purple balloon remnant and carried it off the beach to the nearest trash receptacle. The two gulls watched, fluffing their feathers in the wind. That got me thinking…….

Back at the house, I started to research – what can I do as Earth Day approaches to make a difference in the environment? I found an app on the Ocean Conservancy website called Clean Swell which allows you to keep track of trash collected during a clean-up. This is perfect! After spending a good ten minutes coming up with a group name (McQs for the Deep Blue), I downloaded the app onto my phone and recruited my daughter to return with me to the beach. We retrieved some of the items I had passed by earlier – the pink coil keychain, the deteriorated pocket knife, the orange disposable razor, five straws and ten bottlecaps.  All of these items were collected from a half-mile stretch of seemingly pristine beach in a period of 45 minutes. Imagine the  amount of plastic that might be lurking beneath the sand at a much more traveled beach? Imagine the impact a larger group of volunteers could have?

As Earth Day 2018 approaches, I WILL use less plastic by not purchasing water bottles.  I would also like to organize or join a beach clean-up. This clean-up may be “a drop in the ocean”, but if more of us take this idea and run, it will be a much cleaner ocean when we’re done. (no rhyme intended).  Who’s with me?

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Ball Field Recycling and Litter Mitigation, New Rochelle IEYMS is covering all bases

Any school with a ball field attached can attest to the problems of littering. With hundreds of players and parents coming and going to the fields the accumulated material is staggering.

New Rochelle’s Isaac Young Middle School is working hard to being green everywhere. The school is successfully running the We Future Cycle lunchroom and building recycling program and it has just had a flawless locker clean out day with literally tons of paper being diverted into recycling for the first time.

Dan Gonzales, Assistant Principal and Billy Coleman, head custodian, are the driving forces behind bringing sustainability to every corner of the school.

Isaac Young Middle School was chosen as the pilot school for the new We Future Cycle ball field recycling program. This pilot run is designed to answer the question if students can transfer the learned sorting behavior also to other areas of their life if signage and logistics are clear.

20170531_101134Will newly installed recycling bins with clear signage, next to trash cans, also sporting signage and both are flanked with signage motivate participation?

Well, YES!

20170531_101143Monitoring the recycling bin showed that students put the appropriate items into the recycling bin, without a single contaminant. Room for improvement is that there were materials in the trashcan that should have gone into recycling.

Tackling litter mitigation has so far been …… one guy, one grabber and one large black plastic bag. But no more. We Future Cycle introduced litter separation through a simple ring to keep bags open. It takes no effort to put the bottle into recycling and the chip bag into trash, if the bags are held open.

90% of the litter on the field is recyclable and Isaac Young Middle School is showing that it can be done. Just. Like. That.