Tag Archives: trash

Where do Westchester’s recyclables actually go?

That was the subject of a recent series of presentation to Elmsford HS students. AHHS has implemented the WeFutureCycle recycling program in the fall and is maintaining a 94% diversion rate through recycling and composting. Students are now pretty much on auto pilot when they come up to the recycling station to quickly sort their left over into recycling, composting or trash. Every day, Elmsford HS produces one bulging bag of recyclables from the lunchroom and another one from the kitchen that go to the Westchester Material Recovery Facility in Yonkers .

Learning about the amount of trees felled every day for our daily paper, paper towels or milk cartons literally made them groan. Realizing where aluminum comes from they casually use to wrap their sandwich shocked them, and understanding that plastic in the environment can be a death sentence to all kinds of animals brought some of them actually to tears.

Civilization with its packaging takes a great toll on this planet. Elmsford students are learning every day that being the solution is as easy as changing a few hand movements and becoming conscious about oneself in the greater scheme of things.

Elmsford 1st graders make a difference

Recently, We Future Cycle introduced its recycling program to the Carl Dixson Elementary School in Elmsford. This school houses Elmsford’s youngest, pre-K through 1st grade and it is now bustling with green activities.

Students as young as 4 years old learned that their daily small actions can make a huge difference. They learned about what happens to the things they “throw away” They learned that there is no “away” on this Earth. The content of the garbage can goes somewhere and they were quite shocked to see what a landfill looks like and what an incinerator does to all of our air. All students agreed that we all have to take care of our Earth.

First graders wrote about what they learned and drew a picture about it. Here are some of the heartfelt examples

Samola learned that our garbage gets sent to Peekskill and burned and we breathe that air.

Nadia learned that litter kills animals.

Ivy learned that if you litter, the garbage goes into the ocean and hurts animals.

Loredana learned that we can make choices to keep our planet clean.

Changing school culture, one reusable bottle at the time

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of kids that care and we are so proud to show off the tangible results that hands-on environmental education can bring to schools.

Take a look at this lovely “Reusable water bottle parking area” outside the gym at the Church St school in White Plains.

Seriously…way to go!!

White Plains MAS students learning about packaging materials

White Plains school district has been working with WeFutureCycle for 6 years now and its entire school population is well acquainted with the Recycling station and system in their lunchrooms., The pandemic and the resulting changes in food service put the system on hold for a year.

Now, WeFutureCycle is back to bring environmental literacy to students.

White Plains MAS students just learned in class by class presentation about different packaging and why these materials can be sorted into recycling.

Students as young as K and 1 are very literal in their thinking. When shown a juicebox, they will see JUICE and not the juiceBOX.

Teaching these students to look past the content brings about a whole new level of thinking and even though they were all wearing masks, it was so obvious in their eyes how they were making this very important transition.

After the classroom programs we observed the students putting their new knowledge to test in the lunchroom. It was quite amazing to see the difference in sincerity about their sorting task, now that their heart and head is connected to the hands.

White Plains Eastview students are back to recycling with ease

Lunch at White Plains Eastview school is a well oil machine. Students come in at three lunch periods, get their lunch with hot and cold lunch options and some grab and go components and sit down at their designated table with clear plexiglass individual dividers between each other. Mask rules are strictly enforced and students are only allowed to take the mask off, when seated at their table.

After lunch, students put on their mask and go to the recycling station to sort their lunch waste away. They are calm, relaxed and well versed in what they need to do.

We Future Cycle is proud to be the White Plains School districts recycling coordinator now for 6 years and while the pandemic with its changed packaging requirements made lunch service more challenging, it is a pleasure to see with what normalcy the students sort their waste.

Eastview’s custodial staff is very helpful and keep the stations neat and organized.

It takes a village to raise a child and Eastview is showing that a school community can raise environmental literate students and they make it look easy!

We Future Cycle pushing for more sustainable options to feed students

We Future Cycle’s mission is to create a generation of students to care and to reduce garbage as much as possible. This is a 3 pronged approach. We work with the schools directly to set up logistics to allow for separation of materials so these can actually be recycled and composted.

We also present to the entire school community in order to create behavioral change across all players in the building. Changing on how we discard what we deem not to need anymore is a learning curve as it involves a change of heart. Only if people know what becomes of the material that is carelessly discarded, they start to become responsible for their actions, as small as where they place their empty coffee cup.

And lastly, we are working with food service to identify areas where we can replace unneccessary packaging with bulk.

We are very proud that our vocal opposition to EPS trays (Styrofoam) has now resulted in all of Westchester’s school districts to replace them with a compostable alternative.

We are also fighting against pre-wrapped Spork packages that contain a straw, napkin and spork, all wrapped in plastic. Our studies revealed that 70% of all students do not use the spork nor the napkin, thus discarding the materials unused.

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Unused spork package components after lunch

We are also working to replace all single serve condiment pouches with bulk squeeze bottles. Training students to only take what they intend to consume is part and parcel for this effort.

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Ketchup pouches taken but not consumed from one lunch period

We are working to make the school lunch world a greener place, one lunchroom at a time.

The bigger fight is to get washable flatware back into the lunchrooms.

 

Adopt A School To Provide Environmental Programming

Help us bring environmental education programs to schools.

We Future Cycle is providing challenging environmental programs to schools, all as stand alone curriculum add-on programs to teach students about how their every day actions can make a big difference.

  1. Environmental Footprint of Aluminum: (grade 5-9) Do you know where aluminum comes from?  It comes from Bauxite, a type of stone that contains various alumina minerals. Mining for bauxite involves cutting down trees in rain forests, destroying animal habitats and causing water and soil erosion. Students learn in detail how aluminum is created, and also the importance of recycling aluminum because it can be used over and over again.
  2. Science of Compost: (grade 4-7) After learning to source-separate their food and paper waste in the lunchroom, students know that the material is trucked away to be turned into compost, but how does the transformation happen?  In classroom presentations including slides and video, students will learn the science of mixing “greens” with “browns” with the appropriate amount of moisture to create nutrient rich compost. They will also learn about how putting organic matter in landfills contributes to climate change.
  3. Vermiculture: (grade K – 3) There are number of ways that organic waste (food and paper) are broken down to nourish our soil, and one is vermiculture, or worm composting.  In classroom-by-classroom presentation from a WFC expert, students will learn how worms are used to decompose organic waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich material that can provide nutrients for sustainable plant growth. Students will learn that every living being has an important job to do and after getting up and close to a bunch of worms, most kids end up naming their worms. (Jeffrey seems to be the name of choice, and sometimes “wormy”)
  4. Planting a Trash Garden: (grade K-3) Students are learning about what is organic and inorganic and they learn how materials interact with the environment over time. It opens their eyes to the litter problem surrounding them as well as make them compassionate about being a change agent. A scientific experiment makes this very tangible for the students.
  5. Water Water Water: (grade 5-10) Students will learn about water, how it gets into the homes and what happens to it when it leaves, they learn the working of a Waste Water Treatment Plants, touch upon Waste Water to Drinking Water, Desalination and what the hype about bottled water is about. A water filtration activity for the students caps the lesson off.
  6. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch:(grade 5 – 12) Students are learning about the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the role of ocean currents, and how this affects wild life and the food chain. They also learn about prevention and mitigation in process. This program is very much centered around how people rise up to meet these challenges, it is meant to show students that nobody is too small to make a big difference. Never underestimate the power of one.
  7. Milk Cartons: (grade 3-6) This program explores packaging over time and how single serve packaging came about. Milk cartons are prevalent in any lunchroom in America, but few students know how a milk carton is made.  Students will learn how paperboard and waterproof plastic are blended to make a liquid-proof container, and thus why recycling cartons is a unique process.  Note that Westchester County only started recycling milk cartons in May 2016 and this program will aid to get the information back into the homes.
  8. E-waste/Electronic Equipment: (grade 6-11) What is E-waste and what does it take to make electronic devices that end up as e-waste. How are the devices disposed off and what are the human, environmental and social ramifications of E-Waste. This is also covering jobs in the recycling industry and how students can become involved in innovative technologies.
  9. 9. “Did you know” poster lunchroom education scavenger hunt (grade 3-6): this is an indoor recess activity to make students aware of the environmental foot print of materials they use every day, often without a second thought like straws, plastic bags etc. Searching for clues and filling in blanks is fun to do and they are learning without even noticing it.
  10. 10. The social and environmental impact of textiles: (grade 8-12) this program explores where clothing comes from, what it takes to make them, the social and environmental costs attached to clothing and why textile recycling is so important.
  11. 11. Galapagos, how islands deal with garbage: (grade 8 – 12) Exploring how other nations deal with waste, highlighting Galapagos.
  12. What is recycling? (grade 2-6) What happens to the material we put into the recycling bin, where does it go and what becomes of it. Learning how scientific concepts of gravity, magnetism, anti current, friction and resistance are used to sort materials for recycling. This program also focuses on reduce and reuse education
  13. What is Fracking (grades 8-12) an introduction into energy exploration and the environmental consequences to the oil and gas industry. What does it take to keep society going? Glimpsing into oil and gas exploration, as well as introducing renewable energy sources and how each student can make a difference by being energy literate.
  14. Coal and its environmental footprint (grade 8-12) This presentation examines how coal is mined and processed to be burned to make electricity, it describes the human , social and environmental costs. Renewable energy sources are introduced and contrasted.

New Rochelle High School Students Pitch In……in a big way!

This is Ms Reilly’s class. A bit of inconvenient weather did not distract them from their task of pitching in, doing their part and finding a way to solve a problem.

New Rochelle HS hosted We Future Cycle environmental education workshops across all grades and all subjects and students learned the power of one person. They learned how every solution starts with one person, that sees the problem and decides to do something about it.

And these students decided to be THE ONE, that will tackle a problem. The following Saturday morning, despite a bit of drizzle, 14 high school students fell out of bed early to go and clean up Lincoln Park and Memorial Circle. An hour worth of work that resulted in 6 bulging bags of trash. And these 14 students feel their life has changed. The power of facing a problem, and standing up to it, is truly life changing. It underlines the power of one!

Each of these students has begun to educate their peers, their parents and just people around them through their deeds. It does not go unnoticed when a group of students in green shirts (donated by Macy’s to the cause, thank you very much) are picking up trash in a public park.

Maybelin S.: It was beautiful because we all helped for a good cause, our world!

Lucero B.P.: It was nice because we were together participating in one project that serves us more in the future of our life.
Alberto V.: It was a beautiful experience to gather together to care for our planet.
Gabriela G.C.: It made me feel good because I helped. I helped to clean our public places. Now when I see garbage on the floor, I’m going to feel bad.
Faustino M.C: It seemed like something really great because we were helping our planet. We have to fight contamination.

Students learned about the detrimental effects of garbage in our environment. 23,000 tons of plastic is entering our oceans every single day, all because of human littering. Considering just how light a bottle or a foam cup is, that amount is a volume that is unfathomable.

Watching sobering videos about how marine life is dying because of ingestion of plastics brought home the deadly consequences of our “convenience”.

There was a heart warming moment, when a student raised his hand to share that he used to do contests with his buddies how far they could throw trash into the lake, but he will never do that again because he now knows. A solemn yes came to my question if he’ll stop his friends from continuing this contest.

Can we even solve this problem?

Yes!     Let me say that again.  YES, we can solve our garbage problem, but only together. Every person holds the key to success, everybody makes a difference, every day.

By cleaning up, by not littering, by reducing your own usage of single use materials, by modeling green practices to others and thus winning hearts and heads for the cause.

We can solve our garbage problem, because we MUST, there is no other planet. And these New Rochelle High School students got it, very clearly and it did not take long for them to put into action by organizing a clean up at Lincoln Park and Memorial Circle.

Way to go Ms Reilly’s class!!

Earth Day 2018…Who is with me? Transforming a Science Teacher to Become Green.

We Future Cycle is very proud to have inspired Mrs McCue to not only become green but also to share with all of us her story.

“Mrs. McCue, are you going to stop buying bottled water?” asked one of my students gathered around me at the door, waiting for the bell to ring. Forty eyes were on me. We had just heard a We Future Cycle guest speaker teach us about water treatment and the perils of too much plastic in our world. I looked over at my desk and spied one small water bottle I had gotten that day at a school event, and two half-filled water bottles I had brought from home. “Yes – I should, shouldn’t I?”   I thought to myself, “I have no excuse. Our tap water is fine! I have several reusable beverage containers taking up space in my kitchen cabinet. Why don’t I fill those daily, like I bring my lunch to school every day? If I am going to teach these students to be responsible caretakers of the earth, I should begin by modeling responsible earth-friendly behavior!

Of course I should! Aside from hearing this message loud and clear from Anna Giordano, I had been prompted as well by a few recent news stories. The visual of the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean haunted me, as did the horrific photo of the sea turtle with a plastic straw being extracted from its nose. The focus on this year’s Earth Day 2018 is: End Plastic Pollution. It’s time for me to practice what I preach.

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Several days after this “no-more-bottled-water-epiphany”, at the start of spring break, I found myself on a beach out in Long Island. It was a sunny, windy, 45 degree day, so there was not another person on this long stretch of beach. Two seagulls eyed me as I walked by, snapping their photo. I was noticing the beach erosion from several recent nor’easters and began to think about some other results of these storms. An entire tree lay on the sand. “What else may have washed in during these storms?” I thought.  As I walked along, I admired the rocks and shells, my reverie interrupted by an occasional plastic straw. I noticed a pink plastic wrist coil keychain. Then I saw remnants of a purple balloon. It looked like a piece of seaweed – this could easily be mistaken for seaweed by a hungry creature! I thought of the sea turtle as I placed the balloon remnant alongside some seaweed and snapped a photo. “I can’t just leave it there now”, I thought. If I am going to show my class this picture to illustrate the dangers of plastic in a sea creature’s diet, they will certainly ask if I removed that plastic from the beach!  So I grabbed a stick and picked up the purple balloon remnant and carried it off the beach to the nearest trash receptacle. The two gulls watched, fluffing their feathers in the wind. That got me thinking…….

Back at the house, I started to research – what can I do as Earth Day approaches to make a difference in the environment? I found an app on the Ocean Conservancy website called Clean Swell which allows you to keep track of trash collected during a clean-up. This is perfect! After spending a good ten minutes coming up with a group name (McQs for the Deep Blue), I downloaded the app onto my phone and recruited my daughter to return with me to the beach. We retrieved some of the items I had passed by earlier – the pink coil keychain, the deteriorated pocket knife, the orange disposable razor, five straws and ten bottlecaps.  All of these items were collected from a half-mile stretch of seemingly pristine beach in a period of 45 minutes. Imagine the  amount of plastic that might be lurking beneath the sand at a much more traveled beach? Imagine the impact a larger group of volunteers could have?

As Earth Day 2018 approaches, I WILL use less plastic by not purchasing water bottles.  I would also like to organize or join a beach clean-up. This clean-up may be “a drop in the ocean”, but if more of us take this idea and run, it will be a much cleaner ocean when we’re done. (no rhyme intended).  Who’s with me?

We Future Cycle White Plains and New Rochelle Schools To Receive Westchester County Earth Day Award

We Future Cycle is exceedingly proud that the White Plains and New Rochelle Schools are honored at the upcoming Westchester County Earth Day for their participation in the We Future Cycle Recycling Program that diverts 95% of their waste into recycling and composting streams.

Ridgeway Elementary School Principal Tashia Brown will be receiving the award in the name of the White Plains School District and New Rochelle Jefferson Assistant Principal LeAnn Bruno will be receiving it for the New Rochelle School District.

Both are well deserved, both are champion supporters of the We Future Cycle Sustainability Programs and have gone out of their way to personally support the efforts of their students.

Congratulations!