Goosebump alert! I had the pleasure to visit the White Plains Post Rd Elementary School today during K and 1 lunch and it gave me such goosebumps to see loads of K students eager to be part of the solution. Each of these (tiny) troopers ate quickly and then asked to help at the recycling station.
White Plains City School District has implemented the We Future Cycle Recycling Program now in all of their elementary and middle schools, reducing garbage by 97 % in each building through source separation and diversion into recycling and composting streams.
These K students entered school in September and learned how to sort their breakfast and lunch waste in record time. And…. it is something so satisfying to watch a 6 year old casually walking up to the station and carefully sorting his/her materials in the right bin. As I was watching, students even took the time to explain the system to me and then immediately asked if they could help.
Shoulder to shoulder these troopers made sure that all their classmates were doing it right. Seriously ….way to go
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 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.
When we launch the We Future Cycle program at schools, we work with administrators, custodians, aides, and food service to get the mechanics of the program implemented and humming. However, ultimately the goal is to give program ownership to the students. They are the ones who must learn to separate their lunch leftovers into the appropriate bins, and they are the ones who bring the recycling message home to their families and extended communities.
Fortunately, this is not hard to do! Students absolutely love sorting their lunch leftovers…it’s fun! As well, they thoroughly understand that their actions have a direct benefit on the environment, and they know that what they do makes a difference.
This said, even enthusiastic students need to know that their principals, school lunch aides, and parents support the program to foster sustained compliance, and students also need a refresher from time to time about how the lunchroom sorting works. Fortunately at the BMP Ridge Street School in the Blind Brook District, a 5th grader took it upon himself to spearhead that refresher!
Jackson Welde, 5th grade student, noticed that his peers were becoming a bit sloppy in the lunchroom, so he asked his principal if he could create a presentation to show at the monthly school-wide student assembly. (Click on the image to view a segment of the presentation.) The principal enthusiastically said “Yes!” and within a couple months, this presentation happened. The K-5 students were attentive listeners, and they learned compelling facts about plastic and paper waste as well as about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The presentation reminded students that properly sorting their leftovers in the lunchroom has ramifications to the health of their own environment, as well as to the environment around the world.
We Future Cycle encourages students to lead the environmental initiatives in their schools by making presentations such as these, as well as through Green Writing Contests, environmental education, and many other projects. Giving students ownership of environmental programs promotes the values and responsibility necessary to instill a lifetime of environmental stewardship.
Any parent of a middle schooler can attest to the level of difficulty of making their youngster do anything out of the ordinary, especially if it does not involve electronics.
New Rochelle Isaac Young MS just joined the growing group of schools to have introduced the We Future Cycle Recycling Program. This program reduces waste by sorting materials into excess liquid, recyclable material, compost and untouched food to be donated. Isaac Young MS results were particularly astounding.
From 348 lbs down to a mere 7.5 lbs, from 20 bulging and dripping bags to one single fluffy one.
Under the guidance of Assistant Principal Dan Gonzales and Head Custodian Bill Coleman, the school systematically put the program in place. The We Future Cycle Executive Director presented to all teachers, all security staff, all custodial and night clean staff and finally to all the students the detrimental effects of garbage on our environment and how easy it is to sort the waste into recyclable and compostable avenues.
Teachers reported how shocked they were to learn about the cost of garbage removal to the tax payer and to society at large. Students reported that they had no idea that something as easy as sorting could make such a huge difference.
All of Isaac Young 6th graders had gone through the program already in their elementary schools and fell right back into the routine. 7th and 8th graders are adjusting nicely to the “new normal”. Both lunchroom cleaners as well as the head custodian are reporting that they were skeptical in the beginning but upon seeing the amazing results are fully on board.
We Future Cycle is excited to be also part of the newly created Recycling Club to bring even more environmental awareness to the students. Plans are in place to use the lunchroom walls for student made educational materials outlining the environmental foot print and end of life cycle challenges of packaging materials they hold in their hand on a daily basis.
Recycling at a Middle School, not for the faint hearted but New Rochelle Isaac Young MS pulled it off flawlessly. Way to go!
Getting down to grab a misplaced yogurt cup out of the compost bin is not for the faint hearted, but it is essential for the success of the We Future Cycle recycling program.
This program teaches students to sort their lunchroom waste into excess liquids, recyclables, compostables and untouched food. And low and behold, only 2-5% of the initial amount is actually trash.
White Plains George Washington Elementary School Head Custodian Darrel Kidd supports the program 100%. He says, it makes his life much easier because now, he does not have to bring a single bag of garbage out until the very end of lunch, when he cleans up the station. And then he casually slings the 6 lbs bag over his pinky finger. Because 6 lbs of trash is all that comes out of the school of 630 students. Down from 235 lbs, a 98% reduction.
Biggest challenges in each school is crowd control so that the kids are not falling over each other while recycling at the station. Mr Kidd is the master of untangling traffic jams at the station, he supervises that nothing but food and paper goes into the compost bin all the while keeping the kids in the flow.
Ownership of the program within the school is the key to success and the custodial staff of White Plains GW school is owning this program for good! Way to go.
As a sustainability consultants to the largest school districts in Westchester County, We Future Cycle presenters get to talk to many students, personally my favorite part of the job.
I usually bring a full bag of all kinds of packaging material which I theatrically empty onto a table in front of the students and then neatly arrange the empty bottles, empty cups, empty wrappers, empty boxes, empty bags, empty juice pouches. I remain quiet while listening to the students wondering aloud what I was doing with all that garbage. Some positively snare at it.
I then ask the students what I brought them, holding up a random empty packaging item. A kindergarten student would tell me exactly what I held in my hand…a bottle, ….a can…. a fork. By 2nd grade latest, I get disgusted shout outs of “garbage!”, or “trash”…..with the occasional “recycling” thrown in.
I start by telling them that I did not bring them trash. I pause. They are quiet and bewildered. Then I tell them that I did not bring them recycling. Again I pause. By now, the students are clearly confused, but their interest is very much peaked, there is no sound to be heard, they are anxiously awaiting my answer. And then I tell them, that I brought them material and they decide every time they discard something if it becomes recycling or trash, just by choosing the right bin. Walking them through the example of building with lego brings the concept “many small pieces make something usable, which can be broken down again into small pieces” very much home to them. They got that. When I asked them if they would ever consider throwing their lego in the garbage, they emphatically call out “no” and when I ask them if they ever considered throwing their left over sandwich into the lego box, they paused for a split second and also called out “no”, but in that split second, they got it. They got that everything has its place and mixing it is no good.
Teaching them from here on was a breeze. At the end, when I asked them if they are going to make good choices now as to where they put their material, I got an enthusiastic positive response. New Rochelle Columbus students are pledging to make every time they have to discard something the right choice! Way to go, Columbus!