For years, he and colleague John Griffin have recycled plastic water bottles to support a school garden. After the WFC sorting began in the lunchroom, his students, Lila Byrne and Natalie MacDonald, added this amazing turtle to the sorting station to help call attention to the animals that are effected as a consequence of our actions.
New Rochelle Ward Elementary school has a bustling green team, comprised of 35 3rd, 4th and 5th graders under the leadership of the Science teacher David Nodiff. It is a coveted position to be part of the green team and students actually have to write an essay at the beginning of the year to become part of it and not every applicant makes it.
Lunchroom recycling station helpers are members of the green team and they make sure that K and 1 students are sorting correctly. With great pride, gloves and a badge around their neck, they are making sure all material goes into the correct bin.
In order to help with the classroom and building wide recycling system, the green team decided to make a series of posters explaining some of the trickier details to the whole school through captive audience education. On stairs, where students are often lined up in an orderly fashion, with some delays if there is “traffic”, students tend to look around and Green Team students have now strategically placed information posters at these locations.
And it is working!
Students now know that only hard plastic items go into the green commingled bins. Soft plastic items like wrappers or baggies go into the trash. All paper and cardboard can go into the blue bin for paper recycling.
Thank you Ward Green Team for educating the whole school community!
New Rochelle Barnard students are fabulous waste sorters. The whole school populations has never seen anything but carefully separating their lunch waste into excess liquid, food waste, and recyclable and non-recyclable packaging.
Students know to walk up to the recycling station after lunch and sort their left overs, under the caring and watchful eye of Nick, the lunchroom cleaner.
Recently, We Future Cycle presenters were invited to play some more with the students all around sustainability and material identification.
Knowing what is recyclable and what not is the key to doing it right. Wishful recycling, as in just putting stuff into the green bin, is actually counter productive and creates many problems at the material recovery facility in Yonkers.
Students sat in front of a large pile of common packaging material of all types and were playfully “helping” the presenter to place the items into the correct bin. Most rigid packaging materials made out of plastics, aluminum, carton or glass are fully recyclable in Westchester County.
We Future Cycle shared with the adults in the room that Styrofoam contains Styrene, which is now a classified human carcinogen and banned in New York City, with legislation on the books in Albany to make it a state wide ban.
Students also learned that it is easy to avoid making trash. We Future Cycle presenters shared with them just how much they personally did not like to create trash.
Students learned that -oh big surprise- gold fish taste the same if they are packaged in a plastic zip lock baggie or in a reusable container. After learning about where the trash goes and that baggies end up in the trash, every single one of them responsibly voted that reusable containers are a much better choice for our world.
A harder sell were juice pouches. Juice pouches are one of the worst packaging offenders in existence. Valuable aluminum foil is sandwiched between two layers of plastic. Unrecyclable and thus adding to the whopping 2500 tons of trash generated in Westchester County every single day. All for 2 min of sugar laced drink. Students learned and agreed, that a reusable water bottle is a much better idea for our world.
Once a week, a swarm of green team students are fanning out over the New Rochelle Ward Elementary building to collect used up markers from each classroom.
Students have learned that most materials can be recycled if they are just sorted properly and under the leadership of Mr Nodiff, the science teacher, boxes and boxes of markers are diverted from the incinerator to be shipped to Crayola for recycling.
Never underestimate kid power when it comes to creating change!
White Plains elementary students know all about recycling. No wonder, all schools are participating for years in the We Future Cycle recycling program, sorting their waste in the lunchroom and thus diverting 97% into recycling and composting streams. Mamaroneck Avenue School is a particularly well oiled machine thanks to the super supportive administration and a head custodian fully on board.
However, even though these youngsters are masters of the sorting, when asked what happens to the material, their answer comes a bit hesitantly….”it is getting recycled…?”, the statement more like a question than an answer.
We Future Cycle had recently the opportunity to share the inner workings of a Material Recovery Facility with grade 3, 4 and 5. Students learned in auditorium presentations how the world of science dominates the sorting process by using friction, gravity, magnetism, anti-current. sensors and motion. They learned that materials can only be recycled if they are sorted so cleanly into just THE ONE type of material. They learned about optical scanners, contamination and wishful recycling and they were stunned into silence while learning what it takes to make some of those everyday materials. Can you imagine an auditorium filled with third graders in unison gasping of disbelieve and then stunned silence?
Learning about the environmental foot print of materials is the key to waste reduction. We Future Cycle empowers students to share that message with their caregivers. Nothing is more frustrating to a child that just learned to embrace sustainability, only to find non-recyclable stuff in their lunchbox every day. MAS students pledged to be agents of change in their community. Way to go!
We Future Cycle was honored to be invited to the Barnard PTA meeting, kicking off the effort of this years Co-President Bryan Grossbauer to embrace Zero Waste at all school related events. Parents had heard from their little troopers about the recycling in the lunchroom but were quite astonished to learn just HOW good their kids were in terms of source separation. Barnard has consistently less that 1 pound of trash at the end of lunch.
The presentation walked through the steps of the program, shared the impressive reduction numbers of consistently in the high 90% and educated parents to where the garbage goes and its unbelievable cost to the tax payer.
However, we can not recycle our way to Zero Waste. Reduction and elimination of non-recyclable materials are the only ways to get closer towards Zero Waste.
Holding up a juice pouch, I asked parents how they liked them and a lively discussion about different brands started. There was a shocked silence, when I shared just how much I hated them. Someone contributed that they are just so convenient to put into their kids lunchbox. I began explaining that juice pouches offer no visual control of the product inside, students have a hard time putting the straw in and most get messy while doing it, leaving them with sticky fingers to be conveniently wiped on their pants.
But the worst about juice pouches is that they are non-recyclable. They end up in the trash, being trucked to the incinerated to be burnt there, with the ash subsequently being trucked to PA to be landfilled. Westchester County sends 2500 tons of garbage to the incinerator every single day, at a cost of $200,000 per day.
Our idea of convenience is actually very very inconvenient. Not just in terms of the cost to society and the environment, but also for our kids. They just learned how bad garbage is and still …… are made to contribute to it….. everyday.
The best way to be zero waste is to send reusables to school with the students, reinforcing the environmental lessons they are learning.
And Barnard PTA has just pledge to do that.
Meet Gloria, a wonderful lunch monitor at New Rochelle Columbus Elementary school. For nearly 3 hours, every day, she smiles at her students, opens endless milk cartons for them, helps with anything and all around eating lunch and then is the driving force to make sure that Columbus students sort their lunch waste according to the We Future Cycle system. She is passionate about saving the environment and found her calling to make sure things run smoothly in that very busy lunchroom.
The lunchroom features two recycling stations, neatly signed with large colorful posters, but Gloria added a wonderful personal and artistic touch to it, by taking the actual materials and creating a cute mobile to be hung right over the opening as yet another visual reminder for correct sorting.
Thank you Gloria for making Columbus’ station special.