The following success stories were submitted by teachers, administrators, parents, and various environmental organizations.
Take a look and see what other people around the country are doing to reduce lunchtime waste!
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The City of Santa Cruz sponsored a zero waste lunch challenge at four area schools. Students, teachers, parents, administrators and custodians worked together at each school to make the zero waste lunch challenge a success. A group of students from each school took a leadership role in the challenge. They collected and weighed lunch trash on several regular school days to get an average daily waste to be used for comparison. Then they collected and weighed the trash on the zero waste lunch day and compared the results. The students helped make posters and presented information to all the classes in the school. They helped students separate their waste after lunch on the zero waste day. Here are the results:
Spring Hill elementary school was the big winner by reaching the ultimate goal of zero waste at lunchtime. They used reusable containers, they composted fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, they traded items, and they recycled everything else. The school won some fun prizes, including an environmental assembly on the three R's 'Reduce, Reuse and Recycle', sponsored by the City of Santa Cruz.
Gateway School in Santa Cruz, California was able to reduce lunch and snack waste by nearly 35%, thanks to a great effort made by the entire school community! Our goals for the future include: reducing the amount of trash generated by the hot lunch program, involving teachers and staff in waste reduction in all areas on campus, and helping parents and students make earth-friendly lunches part of their everyday routine.
At Mary Silveira Elementary School in San Rafael, California, the first graders in Miss Goldfien's class put together a newsletter called "The Recycling News." Two students wrote the following article about waste-free lunches.
The Marin Conservation Corps, an independent nonprofit group, has been helping businesses and schools with their waste planning for the last three years. Kimberly Fox employs and trains young adults, who visit state parks, schools, and other organizations to help them identify areas where they can expand their recycling programs.
Last year the Corps sent a team to Mary Silveira School, where they found paper to be the biggest offender. "Another big category was uneaten food, food that should have gone home," says Principal Jeanne Casella. The students did a week of "pack it in, pack it out," to illustrate to themselves and their parents how much food and materials they were using for their school lunches.
Now one of the student jobs at Mary Silveira is "cafe climatologist," a cafeteria waste manager. The students are responsible for figuring out their own recycling program. They presented a report to the school board on what they've done to reduce their waste.
This information was taken from an article published in Marin Scope community newspapers (Publication Date: October 9-15, 2001).
Contributed by Edna Maguire School in Mill Valley, California
Every day during waste-free lunch week teachers hand out blue "caught being good" slips to students whose lunch meets these requirements:
5. Recyclable containers/materials (aluminum cans and foil, #1 or #2 plastic bottles) are still in your lunch to be recycled at home.
West Side School Success Inspires a Parent to Found The Compost Club
In 2002, a parent volunteer helped his daughter's school develop a school wide vermiculture program to turn lunch time food waste into compost. Now, West Side School in Healdsburg recycles over 1,000 lbs of food waste through a sequence of compost bins that return the waste to a valuable resource.
This California (Sonoma County) K-6 school, with approximately 130 students from 1st to 6th grade, now sells its sifted & bagged compost at a local farmers' market in Spring and Fall. This program teaches the children sustainable practices and has raised $1000 a year consistently for the school.
One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to the 6th grade class, who apply the funds towards their annual trip to Yosemite National Park. The success was so inspiring that parent volunteer Rick Kaye gathered up some professional associates and friends and founded The Compost Club in October 2006. The non-profit is serving 12 Sonoma County schools for the 2007-08 school year, replicating the effort at middle schools and high schools. In fact, students from Windsor Oaks Academy may construct the "starter set" of bins for all schools coming online.
Rick Kaye is available as a resource to folks who would like to set up similar efforts at their schools. He can be reached at The Compost Club at (707) 922-5778, P.O. Box 664 Cloverdale, CA 95425 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to visit the website at www.compostclub.org.
Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA has two dining halls. The J is a traditional cafeteria for students living in the residence halls. The Depot serves the main campus with more of a "to-go" format. The kitchen has collected food waste for composting for a number of years. Several years ago, the J switched from an "all you can eat" format to pricing per serving, which has dramatically reduced the amount of uneaten food being thrown out. Diners are now more likely to load their plates with food they realistically plan to eat. Leftover servings are wrapped up for use during the following meal or are donated to a local food bank.
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has started an ambitious district-wide recycling program of food waste diversion and single stream collection, with the objective of cutting the amount of material going into the waste stream and the added benefit of saving thousands of dollars per year. The program has been initiated in over 60 school sites, and works like this:
Blue Oak School, Napa Valley's first independent school, has made waste reduction a priority by implementing Waste-Free Wednesdays - a program which aims to reduce lunchtime waste while encouraging a broader environmental awareness among students, parents and the school community.
David Darlington of Environmental Education for Kids! (EEK!) conducted a waste-free lunch pilot program at Marylin Avenue Elementary School. The project was funded by the City of Livermore, CA. Waste-free lunch kits were distributed to thirty students in a single class. Families were encouraged to pack waste-free lunches as often as possible. Click here to see their results.
Oak Hills Elementary School in Ventura County set a goal of zero waste generation, also focusing on lunch and snack activities, and modeled after a program being carried out at all six schools located within the Sacramento area's Oak Park Unified School District. Here are the fundamentals of the program: student lunches and snacks only use reusable containers; no paper napkins or nonreusable packaging are allowed; all drinks must be in reusable or recyclable containers (no glass); nothing is thrown away. The 500 students only fill one 55-gallon can of trash during lunch. Previously, the same students filled eight of these cans.
The Palo Verde Unified School District, a rural district located in the Mojave Desert, has joined the City of Blythe, a prison, and a waste hauler to divert over 3 tons of milk and juice boxes and more than 40 cubic yards of cardboard from local landfills. All the proceeds from recycled cardboard sales go to fund the prison, where laborer sort and bale the material for reuse.
The Laytonville Unified School District in Mendocino County discovered that worms can be enlisted in the fight to curb waste. In 1993, 14,000 pounds of waste were diverted through composting and recycling efforts. Lunch waste, including nonprotein food waste and paper bags, is taken to worm bins in the school garden. The worms, and other waste reduction activities, reduced the school's garbage by 60 to 80 percent.
Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School in Santa Cruz serves lunch daily using reusable plates, cups, bowls, and utensils. Napkins are made out of 100% recycled content. Chef Rene prepares lunch daily from scratch using organic, locally grown produce whenever possible. The salad bar is included in the price of lunch, and a vegetarian option is offered every day. Click HERE for more information.
Eco-Cycle's Recycling and Environmental Education Program provides two opportunities for Boulder County schools to reduce their lunch waste. The first is the Litterless Lunch Project. To participate, a class must first weigh their lunch trash during one "normal" week and record the weight each day per capita (divide weight of trash by number of students who brought cold lunch that day). We then visit their classroom and give a presentation on how to help the earth by preventing waste, especially waste related to lunch trash. At the end of the presentation the class is challenged to have a "litterless lunch" week and each student is given a reusable cloth lunch bag. One week later we return to check in with the class and see how their week went. We do some math problems to show how even the smallest difference made by one person can add up to a huge reduction in the amount of trash we have and the amount of natural resources that we use!
Submitted by Kate Callander, Eco-Cycle School Program Staff
Phillippi Shores Elementary in Sarasota, Florida has been working hard to reduce lunch waste. An article about their program can be found at www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070418/NEWS/704180745/-1/xml. Parent Lynn Nilssen reports the children succeeded in reducing their total lunch waste by 36%. Third grade had the least amount of waste per student at .17 lbs. Fourth grade did the best in overall waste reduction; they decreased their waste by 53%. To make this possible, they created a timeline and parent letter. The school is still working out the kinks in the cafe to make it easier for collection of recyclables. And Lynn is still working on finding a permanent source to take their compostable waste. But it has been a great success. In fact, she's planning to meet with the science teacher and principal of a middle school as a first step in implementing waste-free lunches there.
From Queen of Angels School in Roswell, GA: "We have Waste Free Wednesdays at our school and try to honor those that are Waste Free Warriors. One little kindergarten boy decided to make every day waste free. This was recently sent to me from his parent when we asked if we could highlight his efforts on our morning school TV program: 'Thank you for this wonderful recognition. Our child will be thrilled! He takes his waste-free lunchbox very seriously. For a while I kept trying to put in a yogurt for him (on non-Wednesdays) and it kept coming home. I finally asked him why he wasn't eating them, and he told me it was because he didn't want to ever make trash at lunch! So although we've always been a Tupperware kind of family, he's truly embraced your lessons at school.'”
In Roswell, GA, Camp Kingfisher's low-impact lunch (our version of waste-free lunch) program has been a major success. Campers have 5 chances during the week to get their lunch "checked off" at our recycling center so they can write their name on the low-impact lunch board. About 20-60 kids generally participate; that's 10-25% of our campers. Every Friday at flag ceremony, we recognize each camper whose name is on the board with a big applause. It's quite cool to see how passionate campers and counselors get about conservation.
At Plum Creek Nature Center in Joliet, Illinois, a work group was put in place to come up with a waste-free lunch program for students that visit for on-site programs. The pilot program was introduced to students who visited in the fall of 2006. The program was mandatory for all schools and, because it was the first time schools were introduced to this program, a contest was included. Their Forest Preserve District mascot is a very large woodchuck named Willy the Will County Woodchuck, a Disney kind of creature, so the name of the contest became Willy's Waste-free Challenge. The winners were the two classes - one from the K-3 age group and one from the 4th grade and above group - with the least amount of non-recyclable, non-compostable lunch garbage. Each winning class received a visit from Willy Woodchuck during Earth Week 2007 and each student received a waste-free lunch kit. (Read more...)
At Lincoln Elementary School in DeKalb, Illinois, Waste-free lunches occur once a month. Students bring their lunch boxes with containers that can be reused and not thrown away. The class with the greatest percent of waste-free lunches gets to house the H.O.P.E. trophy for that month. Students who have participated in 5 out of 7 waste-free lunches will be honored with a special certificate and ecology pencil during our April Awards' Assembly.
The following seven success stories were submitted by Mary Allen, Recycling and Education Director Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC), IL. Go Mary!
Under the direction of environmental representative Ellen Forester, Queen of the Rosary School in Elk Grove Village, Illinois is seeing an upward climb in waste-free lunch day participation The success of this trend is due to a combination of the following efforts: reminding students the day prior to the event and sending a notice home to parents; recording the participation level in each classroom and publishing the results in the school's weekly newsletter; giving each student a reusable sandwich container, which were purchased with SWANCC Waste Grant funds; and allowing two classes with the greatest participation to have an "out of uniform" day as a reward. Next month, each teacher's participation will also be tallied and reported. On a "normal" lunch day at Queen of the Rosary School, approximately 50 pounds of waste is generated. By implementing a waste-free lunch day, only 21 pounds of waste is generated.
With the help of PTA environmental representatives Suzanne Kirkwood and Debbie McGuire, students at Whiteley School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois produced and performed two "informercials," one that demonstrated how to have a waste-free lunch and the other included two environmental rap songs to educate students and teachers about how to reduce waste in school. The videos were shown to the entire school via classroom monitors. Suzanne and Debbie felt that by involving the children in the process of making the videos, participation would be higher. On average, about 75% of the students and teachers participated on waste-free lunch day.
Lions Park School in Mount Prospect, Illinois conducted a waste audit last year as part of SWANCC's Earth Flag Extension Program criteria. Garbage was collected and weighed, both on a regular lunch day and on a waste-free lunch day. On the regular lunch day, 136 pounds of garbage was collected and on the waste-free lunch day, 87 pounds of garbage was collected. By students and teachers making an effort to bring their lunch in reusable containers, packing a cloth napkin, and eating the food they brought, forty-nine less pounds of garbage was generated.
Prospect, Illinois conducted a waste audit last year as part of SWANCC's Earth Flag Extension Program criteria. Garbage was collected and weighed, both on a regular lunch day and on a waste-free lunch day. On the regular lunch day, 136 pounds of garbage was collected and on the waste-free lunch day, 87 pounds of garbage was collected. By students and teachers making an effort to bring their lunch in reusable containers, packing a cloth napkin, and eating the food they brought, forty-nine less pounds of garbage was generated.
To promote waste-free lunch days at Park View School in Morton Grove, Illinois, students designed a logo which was then printed on reusable lunch bags and sold at school and given to entering kindergarten students. This program was sponsored, in part, from SWANCC waste grant funds.
Environmental representatives at Forest View School in Mount Prospect, Illinois counted lunch room garbage by bags. On a regular lunch day, 19 bags were collected. After a waste-free lunch day, only 2 bags of waste were generated.
PTA president, Nancy Buckley, at Washington School in Park Ridge, Illinois used a combination of SWANCC's waste grant funds and school funds to purchase reusable lunch bags for each student. The weight in brown paper bags used at the school decreased from five pounds to one, and lunch room garbage was reduced from twenty-five pounds to seven.
Lines School in Barrington, Illinois collects an average of five trash cans of garbage during lunch each day. Friday is designated as a waste-free lunch day, and on this day, the garbage has decreased to three cans.
Marshwood Great Works School, a 4/5 grade school with about 400 students in South Berwick, Maine, is cutting back on lunch waste by providing their milk cartons and daily food waste to a local compost farmer. They've also switched from disposable plastic utensils to reusable flatware, and they're using compostable sugar cane bowls for the salad bar instead of plastic. The program has been so successful that three other schools in the district have joined in and are saving money along with the earth.
Stowe Elementary School in Duluth, Minnesota instituted a waste reduction program that focused on the cafeteria. They switched from disposables to reusables, started to separate recyclables, increased food ordering accuracy, and set up a vermiculture project (worm bins) to compost food waste.
Minnesota Waste Wise partnered with School District 196 in Dakota County, Minnesota to set up a school composting program.
Shannon Park Elementary participated in a collabrative effort to compost for a better enviroment.
Dakota Hills Middle School used signs creatively to enhance student organization and participation.
Eastview High School developed signs and labels for compost containers to educate students and improve already high student involvement in the composting project.
After each meal, the students scrape any leftovers into separate buckets. (Meat is not composted or fed to the pigs.) The contents of the buckets are weighed and the results for each meal - usually 7 meals - are recorded on a chart. The students are then challenged to reduce their waste by taking smaller amounts when they go through the line the first time. Seconds are always available, and if they're unfamiliar with a food, they're encouraged to start with a small amount.
This is a great learning experience which inevitably leads to a reduction in food waste. For some schools the activity becomes very competitive with students wanting to do better than the school that was there before them - or boys doing better than girls. The center doesn't encourage competition, but it seems to be a natural reaction for many kids. Some classes take the results back to school to show other students, especially younger students who may participate the following year. Most participants in the program are 5-6th graders, but programs for children of all ages are available. The feedback from teachers and parents is very positive. The children are encouraged to talk about these ideas when they go home.
The center also offers adult programs. They learn about the ORT program, but the issue of food waste is discussed rather than demonstrated through the weighing of food waste.
For more information, contact:
Audubon Center of the North Woods
Nancy Meyer of Wahoo Elementary School in Wahoo, Nebraska has provided us with in-depth information on how to hold a recycled art contest. She's included a description of the project, a list of likely expenses, and a list of local materials collection sites. Thanks, Nancy! For more information, click here.
Kim Snyder, a Wahoo High School English teacher implemented a paper recycling program at Region V schools. She and her team placed specially marked recycle bins in each classroom for paper recycling. Twice a week the Region V workers pick up the paper from all three public schools and send it to their paper vendor in Omaha, Firstar Fiber. Firstar turns it into toilet paper called "Kick Butt." The kids at school love the name...and the fact that their homework gets turned into toilet paper.
The following story was submitted by:
Some Food for Thought
When Maple Ridge Principal, Jim Turner, was approached by West Branch bus mechanic & Smith Township pig farmer, Bob Custer, about a food-recycling program, Jim was intrigued. Little did he know how much excitement this new program would generate!
Gina Lagaly, Program Director at Eco-Motion / OKIEE, Inc., in Oklahoma submitted the following information on their highly successful environmental education program.
The mobile environmental program travels the state of Oklahoma visiting schools and communities. The five hour program covers topics in Soil and Water Conservation, Forestry, Energy Conservation, Wildlife Conservation, Agriculture and Solid Waste Management. Teachers work with their students prior the the Eco-Motion visit to learn about waste-free lunches... then during the lunch hour, students participate in the Great American Trash-Off.... they compete class against class to produce the least amount of waste. This is a very new concept for most of our schools..... teachers and students learn a great deal about composting and recycling during the weeks prior to our visit... It has been a huge success.
This bus was found in a junkyard... it had been there for 8 years when we pulled it out, equipped it with a CNG engine.... and hit the road. Talk about recycling!
Donna Miscolta, who promotes waste reduction and school recycling for the King County Solid Waste Division in the Seattle area, is working to promote waste-free lunches in elementary schools through classroom presentations and Green Teams. They publish a quarterly newsletter which is sent to all of their Green Team Leaders. It features classes and schools who have success stories to share. The following are excerpts from this newsletter.
The following excerpts are from the June 2002 issue of Class Act, the King County Solid Waste Division's School Recycling Newsletter.
Norway Public School in Toronto, Ontario implemented a litterless lunch program with excellent results. Parents reported that the Litterless Lunch program reduced the amount of packaging in their children's school lunches by about 60 percent. A similar reduction (about 50 percent) was reported in the use of "wraps and foils" at home, and an overall reduction of about 40 percent in the packaging of foods and products they purchased. Parents also reported an average increase of about 60 percent in the amount of material put into the Blue Box for recycling, and about 40 percent in the amount of materials composted. To learn more about what they did, visit www.toolsofchange.com/English/CaseStudies/default.asp?ID=16.