New Rochelle Henry Barnard students are well into their second year participating in the We Future Cycle recycling program. From time to time, we go back into the classrooms to do more education around the topic and even the littlest ones are now sorting flawlessly.
They know what goes in the green bin, and what goes in the blue bin. And they are happily piping up when I was “making a sorting mistake”.
Teaching children young to care about the environment, to sort materials and foster the understanding that nothing is disposable is the key to creating a generation of kids that care.
New Rochelle Davis Elementary School students are expert lunchroom material sorters. The school is in its second year of the We Future Cycle Recycling program and has reduced its building waste by nearly 50% and its lunchroom waste by a whopping 92%.
To refresh students and to infuse new excitement into being green, We Future Cycle presenters went into all the classes today to expand on what the students know already about the detrimental consequences of garbage in the environment.
Part of the presentation was this 3 min video clip.
This powerful clip brought home to them, that there is no “away” when it comes to garbage and it lead to a healthy discussion about plastic consumption, personal commitment to make a change and the dire need for everybody to become engaged.
Check out this so called “compostable” spoon. This is after it has been in my active compost heap for over a year. No decomposition signs AT ALL, just as hard, shiny and sturdy as before. So why are they even called “compostable”?
These things are sold as disposable and bio degradable, but at least in my compost pile absolutely nothing happened to the material. They are expensive and people are willing to spend the extra money because they want to do the right thing. It’s a $30 million business.
Manufactures claim they will break down completely, but the fine print on the package outlines that only in commercial composting facility it might be the case.
Talking to operators of commercial composting facility offers a different picture though.
Alisha McCutheon runs the composting facility. She says a lot of her customers don’t know most facilities can’t accept bio-plastics. So, they’re in the mix.
“Thin things like bio-bags break down pretty readily,” says McCutheon. “Things like spudware, potato cutlery, forks and knives made out of cornstarch — they almost don’t break down at all.”
McCutheon points to a large pile of debris. It’s the leftovers — even a nerf football — that didn’t break down after five months of composting.
She picks up a compostable spoon and dusts it off. She says all the leftovers – including the spoon — are now on the way to the trash.
And, that’s not good news for the environment. And not good news for the customer that paid big money for wanting to do the right thing.
Check out that pile of sorted out trays! Today was the big roll out day of the We Future Cycle Recycling Program in the 4th Elementary School of White Plains. The waste audit yesterday revealed that GW with its 650 students generated normally 16 bags of trash, weighing 235 lbs. All students went through class by class presentation by experienced WFC staff that skillfully walked the children through the realization that just because a food packaging is empty, it does not mean it is garbage and thus useless. Students learned that most of their everyday lunchroom packaging is fully recyclable if just sorted out, and they also learned that by sorting out the food waste, we could create compost, a valuable resource.
Looking at pictures of the piles of garbage from their school, generated from lunch and night clean, and then learning that there is no “away” for garbage was eye opening even for the littlest one. When asked if they were ready to save the world by sorting their waste into the right bin, they were READY!
And they showed it in the lunchroom! Under wonderful guidance of the entire TA staff, and great personal engagement by the head custodian, the students, from K through 5 pulled off a wonderful job and reducing their garbage by a whopping 98% by sorting the materials into Food Waste for composting, Commingled for Recycling, Excess Liquid to go down the drain, and untouched food to be donated. From 291 lbs only 6.5 lbs were actually trash, one small fluffy bag, instead of the 16 heavy dripping and bulging bags from yesterday.
That is truly something to write home about. All of GW students can be proud that they are making a real difference every day now.
Diverting 98% of school lunchroom waste into recycling is now normal at the Westchester Schools that are running the We Future Cycle recycling program. This is what came out of a school with over 1000 students every day. 32 bags of loosely filled, dripping with left over milk.
However once the students learn about the impact sorting can make, this school is down 98% of it original amount. Only that small black bag, weighing 4 lbs is what is actually trash.
The three bags of milk cartons are now going hand in hand with the plastics to the Westchester Material Recovery facility for recycling, and the green large toter contains all the food waste and all the trays to be composted.
We Future Cycle and The Science Barge are working together to bring Environmental Education to Westchester Schools.
Creating Change is all about showing alternatives. That is exactly the mission of the Science Barge in Yonkers.
The Science Barge is a prototype sustainable urban farm developed by NY Sun Works and acquired by Groundwork Hudson Valley in October, 2008 to be operated as an environmental education center.
The Science Barge greenhouse, floating on the Hudson River, grows an abundance of fresh produce including tomatoes, melons, greens, and lettuce with zero net carbon emissions, zero pesticides, and zero runoff. All of the energy needed to power the Barge is generated by solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels while the hydroponic greenhouse is irrigated solely by collected rainwater and purified river water, thus operating completely “off the grid.”
It is the only fully functioning demonstration of renewable energy supporting sustainable food production in New York. It is now docked in downtown Yonkers just north of the Yonkers Pier.
With 2014 being such an incredible year we are looking forward to 2015 and the positive change it can bring to Westchester schools.
My personal wish list for 2015 is
1. Implementing We Future Cycle’s School Lunch and Building-Wide Recycling and Composting Program to 10 More School Districts in 2015, even if it is just in one pilot school per district. Implementing these programs is very do-able, but working with experts is critical to ensure a successful implementation. Results will speak for themselves and that will hopefully lead to district-wide implementation in many Westchester School districts.
Just imagine, if one school reduces its garbage from 22 bags per day down to less then 1/4 bag per day, what kind of impact this will have if 10 more districts will join the program. And just imagine all those students going back home to their parents and sharing their enthusiasm to save the world.
2. Creating the First Leaf and Food-Waste Composting Site in Westchester.So far, only very few communities are composting their leaves, most are trucking them to Rockland County at great expense in fossil fuel consumption, labor and heavy equipment on our streets. So far, no community is doing larger scale, organized food waste composting instead nature’s valuable resource is treated as trash, plastic bagged and burnt. The good news is that several communities are now studying how to solve this problem. We are proud to be on the forefront with them.
3. Integrating Sustainability Education into Curriculum. We have done numerous environmental projects with individual schools such as green writing contests, waste free snack education, TerraCycle Ambassador programs, kindergarten recycling sorting games and it shows again and again, that when students are made aware early of their personal ability to create environmental change, that the ripple effect through the community is amazing.
Food waste is around 40% of all waste from households, it is made up of mainly water, thus it is heavy. Garbage cost is calculated by weight. So all this water is costing the tax payer dearly.
Westchester’s garbage is being collected by the municipalities, brought to one of the several transfer stations within the county and from there it is transported in big trucks to the incinerator in Peekskill.
So basically, we are using fossil fuels (garbage trucks get about 2.6 miles per gallon of diesel fuel) to truck water 50 miles north?
The far better solution would be to sort out all that water laden food waste and actually compost it. Combine food waste with yard waste and nature will give us black gold, aka compost.
The absolute best way is to do it right at home. Have a little bin next to your sink and sort out all your food waste (no bones or meats though, home composters can’t handle that, commercial ones can)
And place that food waste in a ratio of 1 food waste to 3 leaves or woodchips into a composter. It can be a home made one,
or a commercially available one like these. And the rest is done by mother nature. Turning the mixture once in a while will introduce oxygen and thus help the bacteria to do a more efficient job.
A few weeks later you will have lovely compost that can be used in your garden.
Most people are afraid that composting will be smelly or attract rodents. With all in life, if it is done right, there is none of that.
This face book page ( ttps://www.facebook.com/newpaltzrecycles) was just shared with me. It contains the most amazing and heart warming stories of how students can truly make a huge difference. They have organized “Move Out Programs” to reclaim all the things that accumulate in a dorm room over a year but may not need to be dragged home to mom and dad’s.
They organized “Recycling Carnevals” and “Bike Swaps” Just incredible, check them out.
New Rochelle’s Trinity Elementary school was featured in the local news for their effort to recycle. This school has implemented the We Future Cycle source separation program 3 years ago and is now soon changing over to also including composting into the system. Watch the video here.