Tag Archives: recycling

Communities around the U.S. are creating children who care – about food waste and their role in reducing it

When a recent New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/01/headway/composting-food-leftovers.html) described efforts in Ohio to reduce food waste, staff at WeFutureCycle Inc (501c3) smiled in recognition. The work the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) is doing sounds important and very familiar! Yes, Americans throw away 80 billion pounds of food every year. Yes, it does create untenable amounts of methane when sent to landfills, or horrible smoke pollution when burned in an incinerator, AND takes up more space in US landfills than anything else!  Yes, it can be put to much better use! And significantly, children, such as the ones highlighted in the article, can make enormous differences to the amount of food wasted in their communities.

Students in the White Plains City School District work every day to keep food waste out of the incinerator (Westchester County trash is burned in Peekskill). School staff, including lunch monitors and custodians, as well as We Future Cycle representatives, train & assist each child to sort their lunch waste & leftovers into different bins for each material, including food & paper for compost. Schools that sort are able to divert between 90 and 98% of their waste AWAY from the incinerator! Much of this waste is food, napkins & compostable trays. These items are sent to Ulster County for composting, and in 90 days, instead of pizza crusts, uneaten apple slices, and dirty napkins, we have rich, healthy soil that can be used to grow new things. Additionally, burning less at the incinerator means less pollution from the smoke. While in 2018 the EPA estimates that about 4.1% of wasted food was composted (2.6 million tons), in White Plains schools, almost 100% is composted. 

Just like children at Horizon Elementary in Ohio, White Plains children are learning about their significant role in protecting our environment and reducing waste by recycling & composting, every school day, from Kindergarten through senior year. They’re developing habits that will serve them and their Earth throughout their lives. They’re even sharing what they know when they get home – one mom told us her daughter won’t let her buy (non-recyclable) juice pouches anymore, and they now opt for recyclable juice boxes instead. Another parent shared that her daughter is encouraging them to compost instead of putting food scraps in the trash.

By starting children young the hope is that these habits become ingrained. Community by community, school district by school district, groups like SWACO and We Future Cycle are creating a generation of children who are educated about recycling, who understand the impact one person can make, and most importantly, who CARE!

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Waste Free….. starts with me!

WeFutureCycle’s mission is to create a generation of kids that care.

Our program teaches students to think past the garbage pail. They learn that their small actions of sorting their waste makes a huge difference and every single day, participating schools maintain a diversion rate of 95%.

Students are now sorting more or less on auto-pilot and are transferring that behavior across other aspects of their lives. We see more reusable water bottles, more reusable containers and more and more even reusable spoons and straws.

Students have learned that making garbage is actually a decision and they are now choosing to NOT make garbage.

Where do Westchester’s recyclables actually go?

That was the subject of a recent series of presentation to Elmsford HS students. AHHS has implemented the WeFutureCycle recycling program in the fall and is maintaining a 94% diversion rate through recycling and composting. Students are now pretty much on auto pilot when they come up to the recycling station to quickly sort their left over into recycling, composting or trash. Every day, Elmsford HS produces one bulging bag of recyclables from the lunchroom and another one from the kitchen that go to the Westchester Material Recovery Facility in Yonkers .

Learning about the amount of trees felled every day for our daily paper, paper towels or milk cartons literally made them groan. Realizing where aluminum comes from they casually use to wrap their sandwich shocked them, and understanding that plastic in the environment can be a death sentence to all kinds of animals brought some of them actually to tears.

Civilization with its packaging takes a great toll on this planet. Elmsford students are learning every day that being the solution is as easy as changing a few hand movements and becoming conscious about oneself in the greater scheme of things.

Elmsford 1st graders make a difference

Recently, We Future Cycle introduced its recycling program to the Carl Dixson Elementary School in Elmsford. This school houses Elmsford’s youngest, pre-K through 1st grade and it is now bustling with green activities.

Students as young as 4 years old learned that their daily small actions can make a huge difference. They learned about what happens to the things they “throw away” They learned that there is no “away” on this Earth. The content of the garbage can goes somewhere and they were quite shocked to see what a landfill looks like and what an incinerator does to all of our air. All students agreed that we all have to take care of our Earth.

First graders wrote about what they learned and drew a picture about it. Here are some of the heartfelt examples

Samola learned that our garbage gets sent to Peekskill and burned and we breathe that air.

Nadia learned that litter kills animals.

Ivy learned that if you litter, the garbage goes into the ocean and hurts animals.

Loredana learned that we can make choices to keep our planet clean.

Changing school culture, one reusable bottle at the time

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of kids that care and we are so proud to show off the tangible results that hands-on environmental education can bring to schools.

Take a look at this lovely “Reusable water bottle parking area” outside the gym at the Church St school in White Plains.

Seriously…way to go!!

White Plains MAS students learning about packaging materials

White Plains school district has been working with WeFutureCycle for 6 years now and its entire school population is well acquainted with the Recycling station and system in their lunchrooms., The pandemic and the resulting changes in food service put the system on hold for a year.

Now, WeFutureCycle is back to bring environmental literacy to students.

White Plains MAS students just learned in class by class presentation about different packaging and why these materials can be sorted into recycling.

Students as young as K and 1 are very literal in their thinking. When shown a juicebox, they will see JUICE and not the juiceBOX.

Teaching these students to look past the content brings about a whole new level of thinking and even though they were all wearing masks, it was so obvious in their eyes how they were making this very important transition.

After the classroom programs we observed the students putting their new knowledge to test in the lunchroom. It was quite amazing to see the difference in sincerity about their sorting task, now that their heart and head is connected to the hands.

White Plains Eastview students are back to recycling with ease

Lunch at White Plains Eastview school is a well oil machine. Students come in at three lunch periods, get their lunch with hot and cold lunch options and some grab and go components and sit down at their designated table with clear plexiglass individual dividers between each other. Mask rules are strictly enforced and students are only allowed to take the mask off, when seated at their table.

After lunch, students put on their mask and go to the recycling station to sort their lunch waste away. They are calm, relaxed and well versed in what they need to do.

We Future Cycle is proud to be the White Plains School districts recycling coordinator now for 6 years and while the pandemic with its changed packaging requirements made lunch service more challenging, it is a pleasure to see with what normalcy the students sort their waste.

Eastview’s custodial staff is very helpful and keep the stations neat and organized.

It takes a village to raise a child and Eastview is showing that a school community can raise environmental literate students and they make it look easy!

Elmsford joins the WeFutureCycle program

4 lbs of garbage, that is all that was generated in the Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford. One small bag! Down from over 100 lbs in 9 bags. All the remaining material is either compostable or recyclable.

Students watched a WeFutureCycle presentation to learn about the detrimental effects of garbage on our environment and ultimately on life on this planet. They learned that small changes in their daily life can make a huge difference.

Did you know that if one just separates the recyclables from the non recyclables from the compostables, suddenly a 95% of reduction can be had. And it is not just the benefit of reduction of garbage, but it is also the capturing of the resources. The food waste will be composted into nutrient rich soil and the recyclable packaging material will generate resources for the county.

We interviewed some of the students after learning about the program and sorting their lunch for the first time . All of them said that they were surprised to see how little effort it takes to make a difference, and how just a tiny bit of personal commitment can change the world.

Mt Vernon Grimes school has only 8 lbs left for garbage, a 96% diversion rate

Letter to Grimes School Parents:
We are so excited to share with you that Grimes Elementary School has taken a giant leap toward reducing our environmental footprint and is going green. The students are on the forefront of this exciting new project.
Last week, the children learned in class by class presentations that over 90% of their lunch waste is actually either compostable or recyclable, if it was just sorted out. They also learned about the problems around garbage and that there is no “away” on this earth, when we talk about “throwing something away”. They learned that Westchester’s garbage goes to the incinerator in Peekskill and gets burnt and creates air pollution.
Your children might share with you as their parents that most packaging made out of glass, all hard and rigid plastics, cartons and juice boxes and metals like soda can, aluminum foil and soup/coffee cans are fully recyclable if they are just placed into the correct bin. And to their biggest surprise, students learned that even their left over milk and left over food can be recycled. Only soft plastic such as chip bags, wrappers, plastic baggies, juice pouches are non recyclable and have to be discarded into the trash.
We Future Cycle, a 501 c3 not for profit company, was hired recently by the district to bring this program to all of Mt Vernon schools. The organisation has successfully implemented environmental education and recycling programs in many Westchester school districts . And Grimes is the 5th Mount Vernon school to implement the program.
Your children are now learning a new breakfast and lunch routine, and they took to it like fish to water. Instead of throwing all of their lunchwaste into one big garbage pail, thus generating over 15 bags of trash every single lunch, they are now walking up to one recycling station and are carefully emptying their containers and sorting them into recycling, compost or non-recyclable.

was implemented
daily garbage bags outside the school before the We Future Cycle program

On their first day, Grimes has reduced its garbage from 189 lbs down to a mere 8 lbs, a 96% reduction. Please join me in celebrating this wonderful achievement for our children and their future in a greener world.
This is AP Lucille Martir, easily holding up the single quarter bag of non recyclable garbage left, after the students sorted their waste for the first time.

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AP Lucille Martir easily holding the remaining 8 lbs of trash, a 96% reduction

 

 

 

 

 

Mt Vernon Graham school diverts 97% of its waste into compost and recycling

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.

20191205_141947Well, 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!