Tag Archives: schoollunch

F.E. Bellows in Rye Neck Launches We Future Cycle!

We Future Cycle had a successful launch at F.E. Bellows Elementary School, which serves 3rd-5th graders, in September 2019.  The Rye Neck School District is one of the most enthusiastic and all-in communities in which we have launched the program! The PTSA spearheaded the introduction of We Future Cycle into the school district, and generously funded all components of the launch, including the weekly compost pick-up. Principal Mike Scarantino was an eager advocate for the program, as he had shown the documentary “Straws” to the 5th graders, educating them about the overuse of and destruction caused by single-use plastics. A number of students already compost at home, either in their backyards or through the Village’s residential food scrap program. Starting off with a mindful and supportive team makes the transition into lunchroom composting and recycling so much easier.

Head custodian Phil Reda and his team were very helpful in optimizing the lunchroom set-up. We started with one station, but as the kids were eager to run out to recess right after lunch, the custodial team asked about setting up a second station to make the sorting process even quicker – no problem at all! We also adjusted the bin order and bin size to make it easier for the custodial team to manage the recycling and composting at the end of the lunch periods. Each school is a little different, and the We Future Cycle team monitors the lunch periods at the school for 2 weeks after launch, giving everyone ample time to adjust and make any adjustments necessary to make the lunchroom flow smooth.

Aides Janice, Franka, Vilma, and Lisa, and the food service employees were all committed to making the system work as well. As in most school lunchrooms, students are given spork packets wrapped in plastic, ketchup packets, apple slices in packets, etc., and many are trashed without even being opened!  At Bellows, students were automatically given 2 ketchup packets when they had a meal, such as chicken fingers or burgers, where they might want ketchup. In these instances we collected unopened packets and found that 75 – yes, SEVENTY-FIVE – ketchup packets were being trashed without even being opened, in a school of about 350 students.  As well, on pizza day, students were allowed to go up to food service to get a second slice – but were required to take a second tray.

Both the aides and food service employees found these practices – distributing ketchup packets and requiring second trays for additional pizza slices – to be unnecessarily wasteful once they saw how much trash was being generated. The food service employees went to the food service director to ask if practices could change…and they did! Food service decided to switch to pump bottles once the ketchup and syrup packets ran out, and they disbanded the requirement for second trays for pizza. This demonstrates how important it is to talk to the folks “on the ground” in the lunchroom – they really see what is going on and how much waste is created every day. They have excellent suggestions about how to reduce food waste but are not always empowered to make such changes. The We Future Cycle program can help facilitate these discussions in schools to teach everyone to be more mindful about the substantial waste generated in schools every day.

As always, the results were incredible! The three grades generated 62.5 lbs of lunch leftovers in one day, and 92% of lunchroom leftovers were diverted into liquid, commingled recycling, and composting streams. The breakdown was as follows.
Liquid: 6lbs (10% of total weight)
Commingled (hard plastics and aluminum for recycling): 10lbs (16%)
Compost (food and paper): 37lbs (59%)
Trays (also will be composted): 4.5lbs (7%)
Trash: 5lbs (8%)

In addition to the lunchroom sorting, Principal Scarantino wanted to do composting in the hallways immediately. Students bring any snack leftovers out to the compost buckets in the hallway stations. This eliminates the need for liners in the trash cans in the classrooms, as there is no liquid or food waste in the classroom bins.

Lastly, the PTSA manages a garden at the school, and the students help keep it tidy. Now with the food scrap compost bins on site, the students are able to compost the yard waste as well by placing it in the bins!

We are so happy to have Bellows on board and look forward to our continued work in the Rye Neck Schools!

 

Osborn Elementary in Rye, NY Achieves a 97% Waste Diversion Rate!

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Osborn PTO Co-President Susan Drouin and her son stand proudly by the recycling & composting station!
Today Osborn Elementary School became the 3rd (and final) elementary school in Rye, NY, to implement the We Future Cycle lunchroom recycling and composting program.  Amazingly, each of the 3 Rye elementary schools achieved a 97% waste diversion rate. 
The waste audit revealed the following results. There were 154 lbs total waste (for about 600 students), including:
Liquid: 33lbs (21%)
Commingled (hard plastic, cartons & juice boxes): 29 lbs (19%)
Compost (food & paper): 62 lbs (40%)
Trays (also compostable): 25 lbs (16%)
Trash: 5 lbs (3%)
Only 3% of the lunchroom waste was trash!
Head custodian Tim Connick built 2 recycling stations with countertops; he drilled holes into the countertops, revealing the bins for recycling and waste materials underneath. The counters help keep the system well-organized.  The lunchroom aides were extremely engaged and helped the students adjust to the new system.
As usual, the kids were thrilled with their new lunchtime activity and with creating a healthy environment! Many children ran over to the recycling station with their eyes wide and mouths open in astonishment that launch day was finally here. You would have thought it was Christmas morning and they’d just seen the presents that Santa left under the tree! Their enthusiasm will surely continue as Osborn students are a very thoughtful group. During our classroom presentations to train the K-5 children, they asked “Where does aluminum foil come from?” “How many bags of trash has our school already generated this year?,” “Why don’t we reuse trays?,” and “How do cars get recycled?”  We hope they continue to be inquisitive and apply everything they learn to their lives!
Thank you to the Osborn administration, teachers, aides, PTO and students for giving the We Future Cycle team such a warm welcome and for your commitment to ensuring a healthy environment in the Rye community!

 

Milton Elementary in Rye Reduces Lunch Waste by 97%!

Milton Elementary launched the We Future Cycle lunchroom recycling and composting program, joining Midland Elementary as the 2nd elementary school in Rye, N.Y. to reduce its lunch waste by 97%!

Milton parent Lesley Reidy and 2nd grade teacher Dayna Reist led the charge to bring the program to the school.  Head custodian Billy Salisbury was the behind-the-scenes hero.  At the end of the last school year, he began to separate the liquids from the waste stream and also had students stack their trays instead of dumping them in the trash with the rest of their leftovers; this change alone reduced the trash from 10-12 bags to 2 bags every day!  His work demonstrated that even small changes make a huge difference in school lunch waste.

Then, Billy and Rye’s Facilities Director, Sam Carder, built a counter to give the recycling station a permanent home. While this is not a “must-have” when launching the program, it’s a nice touch to keep all the bins organized in the proper place every day.  And, it looks great!

After two days of training students in their classrooms, we were ready to launch, eagerly anticipating the results. Our waste audit showed that Milton’s 413 students generate about 95 lbs per waste every day.  Once separated into recycling and composting streams, the waste broke down like this:

Liquid: 22 lbs (23% of total by weight)
Commingled (plastic, cartons and foil): 14 lbs (15%)
Compost (food and paper): 40 lbs (42%)
Trays (also for compost): 16 lbs (17%)
Trash: 3 lbs (3%)

This result is tremendous! A special thank you to the Milton PTO for sponsoring the program and to Principal Dr. Nardone for her support as well. We are thrilled to have Milton on board, and we look forward to bringing additional environmental education to the school in the future.

Back-to-School Tips for Packing Waste-Free Lunches

At We Future Cycle one of the biggest challenges we see with lunchroom waste is the plastic baggies kids bring from home.  We are able to compost and recycle 95% of lunchroom waste, and the remaining 5% is plastic bags and chip bags that go into the trash.

It’s easy to eliminate this waste, however, if lunches are packed in reusable plastic containers (i.e., Tupperware) or in one of the handy reusable wraps and containers shown in this video!  Teach your child to be responsible for waste by packing his or her lunch in a reusable container.  Be the leader in changing wasteful lunch-packing habits!

“Just Eat It!” Panel Discussion Highlights Food Waste Solutions

On May 19, The Ossining Documentary & Discussion Series hosted a screening of the documentary “Just Eat It!,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Anna Giordano, Executive Director of We Future Cycle, Sarah Womer, Founder & Executive Director of Zero-to-Go and Alison Jolicoeur, Director of Second Chance Foods.

Each panelist described the work they do to reduce food waste.  Those of you who follow this blog know that We Future Cycle implements school recycling and composting programs; Zero-to-Go are experts at making any event ‘waste-free’; and Second Chance Foods rescue food from farms, grocery stores, and restaurants which would otherwise be trashed and bring it to community service organizations to provide meals for people in need.

The panelists also discussed the opportunities and challenges with implementing a county-wide composting facility in Westchester to help reclaim food waste from both commercial and residential locations.  See the full panel discussion here:

 

New Rochelle Trinity’s Waste Free Tree Filling Up With Leaves

Check out how these Trinity Elementary Students are carefully pasting their waste free leaf to the tree. 6fa07f31-c764-4bb8-958a-bfc3109faacc

Liam Sparano (K, Ms Hawkins class) has received already 6 leaves ” I eat healthy snacks to get energy to grow big and strong like Superman”.

Trinity Elementary School students are proudly pasting paper leaves with their names to the Waste Free Tree that is taking up most of the wall in the front lobby. This Waste Free Tree symbolizes the change Trinity students are making in terms of snack packaging. Only students whose mid morning snack is completely waste free will earn a leaf and the opportunity to paste it to the tree. Students that are waste free and also super healthy will be able to earn a bonus leaf. And ….. this tree is sprouting leaves like crazy!

Jayden Henry has received 5 leaves. Jayden said, “I tell my Mommy I need a healthy snack every day”

Valeria Gutierrez has 4 leaves- She said, “I remind my Daddy in the morning to not use plastic baggies and I need fruit or rice cakes for snack”

We Future Cycle, a non profit organization specialized in bringing large scale sustainability programs to schools was hired to turn New Rochelle on a path toward sustainability.  4 presenters did class by class presentations to over 1000 students, helping them make the connection that snacks that are healthy for their body are often also healthy for the Earth as they come naturally unpackaged.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven kindergarten students, when presented with a picture of the packaging waste of classroom snack knew immediately that most of that food belonged into the category of junk food. When asked if that food was healthy for their body, they all enthusiastically replied “no”. They listed the commonly known reasons on why not to eat junk food,  even the littlest ones knew the connection to obesity, diabetes and dental decay, amazing.

Tanya Kadaru has received 6 leaves  “My parents give me fruits and vegetables for snacks. They want me to stay healthy and get a lot of sleep so I can learn”.
Teachers are reporting a decrease in plastic baggies and more reusable containers. More students are bringing in water in thermoses to drink and skipping the juice boxes.
Trinity Elementary School is a shining example of how we can create a generation of kids that care through environmental education, and how it changes communities as well.

 

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”.

The Cost Of School Lunch Packaging to Society

We all know a regular hectic morning, between getting ourselves ready for work, getting sluggish children out of bed, showering them is optional, a cursory brush of the hair, feeding them, throwing together their lunch and snack with a quick grab into the pantry to put pre-packaged convenience food into their lunchbox, and ,still out of breath, we run them to the bus stop. Phew.

We don’t have time to think what price tag might be attached to that pre-packaged food at the other end. We are just happy to have made it again, another day of hectic working parents.

We -at We Future Cycle- working in the classrooms and in the lunchroom teaching the children about the waste and where “away” is, see it every day. We see the plastic baggies, the pre packaged meat, cracker and sauce packages, the juice boxes, the juice pouches, the single serve apple sauce pouches. We see the huge amounts of packaging materials that come in, all in the name of convenience.

As most of us don’t think past the curb where we bring our garbage can twice per week, there is no understanding what happens to the stuff once it leaves our house. It just conveniently “goes away”. Students in schools that are running the We Future Cycle Recycling program are learning that there is no “away”. Older students also learn about the cost of “away”.

Schools are spending a large portion of their budget on waste management. Every dollar spent on Waste Management is a dollar NOT spent in the classroom.

Parental convenience comes with a price tag to society.

There is a much better way, that will save money on both ends and only requires a little bit of planning. Packaging a lunch from fresh ingredients in a reusable box, and sending watered down juice in a reusable bottle will solve two big problems in schools. It will reduce the waste management costs and it will feed the children healthier to allow for better learning. I am sure you will agree with me……our children are worth the little effort.

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.