Even a 3 year old knows that a wrapper flying through the air on the street is not suppose to be there. When asked if that wrapper ever goes away, the little boy stopped to think a bit and then came a timid “no” , with a question mark at the end. Talking about “away” is a common topic at the Little Leaf Nursery School in Hastings these days and the students are learning.
Just recently We Future Cycle introduced recycling and composting and the students are now seasoned recyclers, knowing where materials go and where the food waste goes. They all reported that they feed the tumbler and they help tumbling.
To bring decomposition even closer, we created a trash garden with the students today. We cut up some fruits and vegetables, looked at the seeds and planted them together with strips of aluminum foil, corners of paper, a hard plastic bottle cap, some soft plastic wrappers and some cut up fruit and veggie peel.
The students learned about prediction and we tried to predict what would grow from the things we just planted. We will now keep our “trash garden” nicely watered and observe the changes.
The lunchroom in the German School in White Plains resembles more an upscale restaurant then a school lunchroom. You will find a decorative salad bar, a drink dispenser, a milk dispenser with your choice of 1% milk or 1% chocolate milk, a juice and sparkling water dispenser, the dessert counter with the fresh fruit of the day in a sun light filled high ceiling room, with light wood round tables. The food is all prepared on site, with the daily soup, vegetarian choices and meat dish.
Chef Paul Boos, Food Service Director with Compass USA, personally serves the students and the school is proudly looking upon a 100% participation rate among students.
The school uses only reusable dish and flatware and students are returning their trays to a counter that leads to the dishroom.
Now, GISNY, under the leadership of Edward Schlieben, administrator and a very active Green Team is launching into food composting on site. The handsome garden is visible right from the lunchroom and it is the logical next step in their journey to zero waste.
Come January 2016, students will be scraping their food waste into the compost bucket instead of garbage and the student green team will manage the compost bins. We Future Cycle is proud to be helping the GISNY on their path to truly zero waste.
On page 3A of the Sunday Dec 6th edition of the Journal News is a lovely article about the White Plains Ridgeway Elementary school’s recycling program.
Akiko Matsuda, the reporter that covers environmental issues for the Journal News in Westchester County contacted We Future Cycle in August to find out more about the program. We had long conversations covering the beginnings, the challenges and the successes. Akiko was hooked and ready to see the program in action.
Schools don’t easily admit reporters but Ridgeway Elementary School is so proud of its lunchroom that they were happy to share the good news. Assistant Principal James Graziano is an enthusiastic supporter of the program and together with his fabulous head custodian Pedro Molino showed off his kids with a proud smile.
We Future Cycle is excited that this news coverage has raised awareness in the community that other school districts contacted us to find out more about the program. Thank you Akiko and thank you Ridgeway students for showing off that you can make a difference.
Nine adorable 3 year olds were sitting wide eyed on the carpet while helping Anna Giordano from We Future Cycle empty two reusable bags of all sorts of packaging materials onto the carpet.
They picked up empty soda cans, empty peanut butter jars, empty glass bottles, crumpled aluminum foil, empty can food cans. They checked if one can rip a pizza box, and they crinkled the soft plastic wrapper of cookies.
When asked what all this stuff was, they answered according to what they had in their hand. “A bottle”, “Paper”, “box”.
When you ask elementary school children the same question, the answer will invariably be “trash”.
By elementary school age, children have learned already what trash is, and they have already been impregnated by the thought that all things they are done with is trash. They heard so many times already “just throw it away” that they have a clear understanding that “away” is a very convenient spot for unwanted things.
These nursery school children were so excited about that a bottle can, just like Lego, be a building block for something else again. They immediately grasped the concept that if you sort things in the right bin, you can use it again. With gusto they helped to sort items into the commingled or the paper recycling bin, and they asked to do it again. They learned to identify between hard and soft plastic and they learned that aluminum foil is metal. They can pick out paper and cardboard, and they learned with sadness that little plastic baggies are not recyclable again, but really trash.
Theresa McCaffrey, owner of Little Leaf Nursery school is very focused on teaching her students about nature. The multi-age nursery school is located within Andrus-on-Hudson, a senior residential community, and it’s 25 acres are the children’s living classroom. Little Leaf at Andrus On Hudson is in Hastings 185 Old Broadway, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY 10706. Gorgeous. There is a garden, a mud kitchen for the kids, and all kinds of outdoor activities. Daily routine is a nature walk, come rain or shine and these kids are suited up in rain gear and are running around with huge smiles on their tiny faces. They do activities with self collected acorns, they have communal snack on washable plates and bowls, all organic, non processed foods, heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables. You will find no sugary juice boxes or processed lunchables here. A fabulous place!
And now, the students are also learning about the cycle of food waste into compost. We Future Cycle set up a compost tumbler and the students are now sorting their clementine peel into a cute froggie shaped bin and are proudly taking turns to bring the bin to the composter, mixing in the browns with the greens, and then tumble.
Under the guidance of Ms Caffrey and her two amazing assistants, Little Leaf students are already making a difference in this world. Way to go!
Larchmont and Mamaroneck’s Superintendent Dr. Shaps and Hommocks Principal Dr. Seth Weitzman proudly cut the ribbon to the first Rocket Composter at a Westchester public school.
Thanks to a generous grant of the Education Foundation, the purchase of this stainless steel machine that takes food waste and wood chips and 2 weeks later, compost comes out the other end, was made possible. After an additional 4 weeks of maturation, the compost will have finished its nitrification process and the compost can be used in the garden.
We Future Cycle was hired to do the program implementation as well as teaching students how to sort properly. The rocket is a picky eater, it only likes food.
The additional benefit of the We Future Cycle program is that apart from the food waste, also excess liquids, paper and commingled recycling are sorted out and sent into recycling streams rather then up the Hudson to be burnt as trash. A win win situation for all parties.
As a matter of fact, Hommocks is able to divert a whopping 86% of its waste into recycling or composting streams.
Mamaroneck’s Mayor Mr Rosenblum shared with a smile that his DPW guys already reported to him how much of a difference that makes.
Dr Shaps is very proud of Hommocks success and is looking forward to be implementing the recycling program in the other schools too.
We Future Cycle is proud to be helping with that as well.
This is completely untouched food from just one lunch period in one school.
Before schools implemented the We Future Cycle Recycling program, this untouched food went unnoticed right into the garbage can.
However, now as additional benefit to source separating in the lunchroom this food is sorted into a share basket, ready to be consumed by either other children within the school during lunch, afterschool program or while being at the nurses office, or donating it to a local soup kitchen. Both is legal, safe and infinitely preferred over just trashing it.
We Future Cycle is often met with resistance when suggesting to donate the sorted out food. Standard practice in the school cafeterias is that if the milk runs out of date over the weekend, instead of donating it on Friday, it is being tossed on Monday, packaging at all.
Arguments given are that food service does not want to be liable should someone get sick when consuming donated food, or that it is illegal to donate tax payer sponsored food, or that it is too much work to organize the logistics around food donation.
As a matter of fact, it is not only legal, but also encouraged to donate the food. The Good Samaritan Act holds any donor harmless and We Future Cycle will pair the school up with the closest local, health department vetted soup kitchen, that will come and pick up right after lunch. A complete Win Win situation for all parties.
And think about the social lesson to the children if they are involved in the process.
However, the best way to avoid untouched food waste is to teach the children (and their parents) about choices and how to refuse when they do not intend to consume a food item.
In the lunchrooms we see so many children dumping the lovingly made sandwich from mom right into compost, without ever taking a bite out of it. And off they go to stand in line at the snack desk to buy chips and ice cream.
I am sure there is a better way. Let’s tackle it to make a difference.
White Plains Church St Elementary School under the leadership of Principal Myra Castillo and Assistant Principal Merle Jackson have reached nearly Zero Waste with only 3 lbs of trash from nearly 700 students in the lunchroom. Outstanding!
Ms Castillo knew that this program can only work if all departments work together for a common goal. She allowed time for food service, facilities, teachers and teachers aids to be trained on why the We Future Cycle recycling program is so valuable for the social development of the students.
And both Ms Castillo and Ms Jackson are putting their money where their mouth is and are actively participating in teaching the students on how to sort.
The system is easy. First the students empty their left over liquids into the bucket, sorting the container into either milk cartons or commingled, then all remaining plastic is sorted into commingled, all food waste and paper products are dumped into compost and the tray is stacked neatly. Done.
Church St had a whopping 76 lbs of excess liquid, a large bag of commingled, 2 large bags of milk cartons, 75.5 lbs of compostable material and only 3 lbs of trash, that is 1.7%. Nearly Zero Waste!
6 students helped with the weighing and counting. Thank you
Only the students that bring lunch from home in disposable packaging are contributing to trash. Non recyclable are chip bags, drink pouches, soft plastic wrappers, sandwich baggies, go go squeeze packaging and things along those lines. Next steps will be to actively involve parents to be part of the zero waste solution.
A huge shout out to Head Custodian Jody Raynor, whose support in this program is invaluable. He is being called ” Mr Smiles” by the students. Trust me, I am not making this up. He does smile all the time, while helping the students to sort. Truly WAY TO GO!
Church St Elementary School is a prime example on how support by all departments can lead to something as fabulous as nearly zero waste.