Mount Vernon Graham school used to produce 15 bags of trash every day, and custodial staff had to bring each bag through a long underground tunnel , up some stairs to the street. That alone was a good work out.
Well, check out Dr McGregor , Principal of Graham school, lifting the remaining garbage with one arm.
Graham school just recently joined the We Future Cycle recycling program, the 6th of Mount Vernon schools and it diverted a record of 97% of its waste into compost and recycling. A mere 5 lbs were non recyclable soft plastics.
Students learned in auditorium and classroom presentations that there is no “away” in this world. They learned about garbage, pollution and how it all effects us right here, every day. Shocked faces looked at birds with their bellies full of plastic because people threw their waste carelessly away.
Sixth, 7th and 8th grade classes were together in the auditorium and it was so quiet one could hear a pin drop and collective moaning arose when they saw pictures of how plastic in the environment effects animals. I actually had a 7th grader come to me and hug me and thank me for showing her how she can make a difference. It was very heartwarming.
We Future Cycle is usually 2 weeks in the lunchroom actively helping the students to learn about what materials get diverted and we use that time to educate them even more. From day one, we had excited helpers and students that came to me to share how they are now making a difference every day.
Graham students are now the generation of kids that cares. Way to go!
What happens to stuff when we throw it “away”?
Walking through the fictional example of sitting on a park bench, eating a sandwich and throwing the left over and the plastic bag into the environment, students learned about how organic and inorganic materials interact with water and wind.
Students learned about the detrimental effects of littering to our animal world, in particular the marine life. Students reacted with utter shock to learn that the litter on our streets goes unfiltered with the rain water into our oceans and there it is mistaken for food by marine life that will die a painful and slow death.
Students pledged to never litter and to be the change agents of their community to educate them about caring for this world.
A fun, but slightly, messy science experiment capped off the lesson and students were asked to write about 3 things they learned.
Mt Vernon Lincoln students truly learned that their actions matter, every single day.
Meet Mt Vernon Lincoln Avenue Elementary School Principal Dr Jones and AP Mr Molina. See how casually Dr Jones can lift the only 6.5 lbs of garbage that are remaining after her entire school of nearly 700 students are done with lunch. Usually, an unsightly pile of bags weighing over 218 lbs are found on the sidewalk next to the school for removal, but no more.
Lincoln Ave students just learned all about garbage and how simple sorting out all recyclable and compostable materials is the solution. We Future Cycle presenters came to the classrooms and opened their eyes to the problems around garbage and that their own every day behaviors can make a big difference.
And every student agreed that it was easy and the right thing to do. Already the first day, we had lots and lots of students that wanted to get involved to make a difference and Lincoln Ave school will now create a green team to foster environmental thinking among the students.
Edwards Williams Elementary School in Mount Vernon has just implemented the We Future Cycle recycling program and reduced its garbage to just one bag, down from the regular pile. All the rest was recyclable, compostable, excess liquids or untouched food.
Students learned in class by class presentations how their personal actions can make such a difference. The simple act of putting a packaging material in the correct bin means that this material can have a second life.
Students learned that instead of throwing all their lunch waste in the garbage, if they just sorted it into recyclable packaging, compostables and non-recyclables, over 90% can be re-utilized. Shocked faces greeted images of landfills and incinerators. Nobody really ever thought what happened to garbage once they threw it “away”.
Learning that even their left over milk and their left over sandwich can be recycled was quite eye opening to these students. They were hesitant when offered to smell compost as they still had food waste as a negative thought in their head. But after the first, courageous kid took the proverbial nasal plunge and took a sniff and declared with a big smile : It smells just like dirt and nature!, they all smelled it and agreed that it makes so much more sense to compost our food waste into soil, then treating it as trash and either landfilling or burning it.
Williams students are all fired up to help save the world and from day one on, the building took ownership of the program.
We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of students to care and to reduce garbage as much as possible. This is a 3 pronged approach. We work with the schools directly to set up logistics to allow for separation of materials so these can actually be recycled and composted.
We also present to the entire school community in order to create behavioral change across all players in the building. Changing on how we discard what we deem not to need anymore is a learning curve as it involves a change of heart. Only if people know what becomes of the material that is carelessly discarded, they start to become responsible for their actions, as small as where they place their empty coffee cup.
And lastly, we are working with food service to identify areas where we can replace unneccessary packaging with bulk.
We are very proud that our vocal opposition to EPS trays (Styrofoam) has now resulted in all of Westchester’s school districts to replace them with a compostable alternative.
We are also fighting against pre-wrapped Spork packages that contain a straw, napkin and spork, all wrapped in plastic. Our studies revealed that 70% of all students do not use the spork nor the napkin, thus discarding the materials unused.
We are also working to replace all single serve condiment pouches with bulk squeeze bottles. Training students to only take what they intend to consume is part and parcel for this effort.
We are working to make the school lunch world a greener place, one lunchroom at a time.
The bigger fight is to get washable flatware back into the lunchrooms.
Every morning, Mt Vernon garbage trucks stop in front of each school to lug black trash bag over black trash bags into the hopper. Columbus Elementary School is usually sporting a bulging row of bags, sometimes already attacked by vermin and bags ripped over with unsightly trash spilling out.
But no more!
Columbus just joined today the We Future Cycle recycling program and in class by class and auditorium setting presentations all 500 students, ranging from Pre-K to 8th grade learned about the problems around garbage.
They learned that by simply sorting their waste into organic, recyclable and non recyclable, most can be diverted out of the waste stream. And they took to it like fish to water. On day one, students diverted 181 lbs of material into recycling and composting, that would otherwise have gone into the trash. A whopping reduction of 96%!
So, instead of that row of trash bags, Columbus is only sporting this one single, very light bag of 7.5 lbs. THAT IS IT!
Students said, that they had never thought past the garbage can, the stuff just magically disappeared at some point. But now, they realize that their own actions, as simple as placing an empty milk carton into the recycling container can make a difference. Students learned that not just bottles and cans are recyclable, but also all glass, milk and juice cartons, all metals including Aluminum foil, and all hard packaging made of out of plastics, with the exception of Expanded Polystyrene (Styrofoam).
Students were surprised to hear that even their left over milk and food scraps are not trash, but actually a valuable resource.
The left over milk, poured down the drain, is actually food for the army of good bacteria at the waste water treatment center that cleans our water before it is being sent back into the Long Island Sound.
And their food scraps are going to a farm to compost into nutrient rich soil. Students had the opportunity to see, touch and smell actual compost and they all agreed with a smile that it smells like nature and wet forest.
Mount Vernon Columbus students are well on their way to making their school a much greener place. Way to go!