Last night, We Future Cycle hosted an informational table at the White Plains Mamaroneck Avenue School at the Back -To- School Open House. Talking to parents showed that even the K students with only about 10 days of lunchroom sorting under their (tiny) belts brought the information about recycling home and some even effected change already. It was heart warming to hear parents say how excited their kids were about being part to save the world. One mother shared with me that her son told her on day two that she needed to get another bin to sort out recyclables (which she did)
One father shared with me that the favorite word of his brand new kindergarten student is commingled and he sits at dinner and identifies the different materials he sees.
To give some background, White Plains School district hired We Future Cycle in 2015 to implement the recycling program in its elementary schools, moving into the middle schools by 2016 and now starting the HS school. Administration at MAS has been outstanding supporters of this program and this percolates through the building. Students are lining up to help at the recycling stations, students are signing up to help sweep and wipe tables, every single classroom has a recycling stations and while walking the building it was heartwarming to see that every single bin was perfectly sorted.
This proves that environmental education in schools can change communities. It teaches responsibility and personal commitment. All life long lessons. Hats off to MAS students for being the change we want to see in this world.
New Rochelle High School is the largest HS in Westchester County New York, it is more like a college campus with sprawling hallways and mind-boggling amounts of students spilling out of classrooms when the bell rings. 3 cafeterias are on campus feeding these youngsters and until recently were generating a whopping 100 large bags of garbage e.v.e.r.y…s.i.n.g.l.e…l.u.n.c.h ! Filling up 3 dumpsters to the brim just from lunch, and another two large dumpsters from night clean.
New Rochelle School District has embraced the We Future Cycle Recycling Program and steps were put into place over the summer to include the High School. Principal Richardson admitted that he was beyond skeptical about how this program could possibly work in a huge building like the High School. He however vowed his full support.
In order for a recycling program to work, one has to address all players in the building. We Future Cycle did presentations to students, custodial staff, and security personal to outline just how we are all affected by garbage and how simple changes of behavior can make a HUGE difference. Putting the new knowledge to action, students started to sort their waste in the different cafeterias and learned that by simply sorting into excess liquid, commingled recycling and food waste for compost, 90% of the waste is captured and sent to reusable streams.
Only 10% of the High School waste was trash. A 90% reduction of lunch waste is huge, looking at the sheer number of players involved. Instead of filling up trash containers, the high school is now filling up commingled recycling containers and food waste bins to be composted. Way to go!
Principal Richardson is exceedingly proud of his student body and is working with his Science Chair to integrate Environmental and Sustainability Education as Curriculum Add On.
During the recent budget presentations the Director of Facilities for the New Rochelle School District presented cost savings of more than $100K through implementation of the We Future Cycle Recycling Program.
(Click on the image or on this link to view the video).
These cost savings are possible through reduction in waste generation of 97% in all elementary and middle schools. 8,000 students are now sorting their waste and thus sending food waste to be composted and packaging to be recycled rather then all of it going to trash as it had been the case before We Future Cycle got involved. It was not a road without its bumps but seeing this kind of result makes the effort well worth it.
Trash pre-sort (lbs)
Trash post-sort (lbs)
Before the WFC program, New Rochelle School District had its own garbage trucks with two dedicated Buildings and Grounds staff members doing nothing but driving from school to school to school to pick up garbage. Each school, depending on size put out 13 – 30 bags of garbage from lunch alone and the same amount again for night clean. That added up to 211 bags of garbage per day from lunch alone, without the High school and its 80 bags per lunch.
Now, most schools are looking at one fluffy bag of trash weighing between 3 and 7 pounds instead of the previous 400 lbs.
New Rochelle School District is now able to share services with the City of New Rochelle who has taken over the garbage and recycling pick up for the district at no cost, other than buying the special split back truck. The $100K cost savings is so far only the reduction in truck operation, garbage tipping fee, it does not include the additional savings of allocating the man power to other positions, the reduction of plastic bag purchasing and the increase of income generating recyclables to the Westchester County.
Last night about 300 of New Rochelle’s parents had a chance to stroll in the festively decorated lunchroom of Albert Leonard Middle School to view lots of silent auction item as well as tasting delicious fare from fabulous New Rochelle restaurants.
The annual ALMS PTSA fundraiser “Taste of New Rochelle” was a relaxing place to meet and greet parents we only get to see on our (hurried) way to drop off or pick up our kids.
Last night marked also the first time that this event was source separated to mirror what the students are doing in the lunchroom.
Parents had the opportunity to sort their waste into “Food & Paper” and “Commingled Recycling” and they all did it with gusto and flawlessly. Anna Giordano, Executive Director of We Future Cycle, the not-for-profit organisation that was hired to bring extensive sustainability programs to the district was there to help at the station and to share the fabulous results achieved in all the schools since the inception of the program. ALMS has reduced its lunchroom waste by a whopping 95%, its building waste by a good 50% and its kitchen waste by 65%. All in all, that is about 450 lbs of garbage NOT generated every day, and that just from one of the 9 participating New Rochelle schools.
Thanks to the program, New Rochelle School District was able to revamp its waste management system and save considerable funds. Carl Thurnau, the Director of Facilities for the district has just quantified it at the ongoing budget meetings with an annual savings of $130,000.
And of course, Westchester County is benefiting from the increase of recyclables delivered to the Material Recovery Facility near Stew Leonards. Recyclables are commodities that are sold back to industry for considerable prices.
ALMS Taste of New Rochelle generated 3 large bags of recyclables, one bag of food waste for composting, and only about 2 lbs of trash, mainly Styrofoam products.
Walking into a classroom full of excited 6 year olds, toting your worm composting bin is an adventure in itself. The “uuuuh”, “aaahhhha” and “YIKES” were ear splitting, most students also expressed how gross they thought worms were. However, it didn’t take long for them to understand the important role that worms play in our environment.
Students learned how worms eat and the explanation of what comes back out was drawing big laughter . They giggled as they tried the new words out. Eisenia Fetida, the latin name of the red wriggle worm, is now a household name among these first graders. Worms and their “castings” were investigate under the magnifying glass and all students touched and smelled the worm castings to make a scientific analysis.
“It feels real smooshy and doesn’t stink at all, just smells like dirt”
“I thought it would be gross to touch it, but it wasn’t, not at all”
“The baby worms were so cute, I wanted to take them home”
We Future Cycle is proud to provide sustainability education to the New Rochelle School District and class by class, students are learning how things work together and how they can make a difference. Fostering understanding for the cycle of life and the importance of all beings in this cycle in young children will change communities.
Vincent’s mom already shared with the teacher how the information came home and how Vincent now considers worms and other critters his friends.
New Rochelle School District has committed funds to Sustainability Education knowing that it is a capital improvement project that will shape and educate the whole child. Truly fantastic.
On my regular visit to schools participating in the We Future Cycle Recycling Program, I often ask the students how they are feeling about sorting in the lunchroom. The answers today made me so proud! Here is what Eastview’s 6th graders had to say.
Diego said that sorting is not hard, it helps the Earth so much and he now does it automatically without thinking and also at home.
David brought the information home and in his house there are 3 bins now and everything gets sorted correctly, and that makes it so much cleaner.
Reid echoed that now his house also recycles, something they did not do before.
Rebecca shared that they were recycling before she learned about it in school, but now they are also composting in their yard and they are much more exact about what items can all be recycled.
Silvia also brought recycling home and it is now the new normal at home as well.
Watching 600+ students sorting carefully their lunchroom waste into excess liquid, commingled recycling and food waste for composting was so inspiring. They KNEW what to do, and they did it casually, completely naturally and without any effort at all. While chatting with their friends soft plastic was separated from the left over sandwich so each could go into the correct bin, left over milk was poured into the bucket, and the carton went into recycling.
This new normal also shows throughout the building as each classroom is set up with a paper and commingled recycling bin .
Today I audited the garbage that came from night clean, so from all the classrooms, bathrooms and offices and it was incredible! A building of 600+ students generated just 16 lbs of garbage in the building, 6 lbs from lunch and breakfast and 3 lbs from the kitchen. So a total of only 25 lbs of garbage per day, down from 296 lbs per day or an overall 92% reduction! That is way wonderful. And just think about these 600+ students bringing this news home and making it the new normal there as well.