Beecher Road School made some exciting changes for Fall 2019 with respect to waste awareness and reduction. Through a combined effort, the school administration, teachers and the Board of Education Ad Hoc Sustainability Committee, developed many recommendations that lead to actions and change for the entire school this year!
As a part of CT Green LEAF Schools, The Beecher Road School GREEN TEAM has launched! This team is comprised of parents, teachers, staff and community members. We have had a lot of interest but would love to hear from you as well! Please contact us if you’d like to join. We’d love to have you!
On the first day of school in August 2019, with the help of Green Team volunteers, children were coached and encouraged to eat their food and refuse any single use plastic products they do not need. At clean up time, – instead of dumping everything in the trash – students sorted their waste into the following containers: Off Site Food Donation, Liquids, Food Scraps, Recycling and Trash. To help students identify proper receptacles, all barrels were labeled with colors, photos and signs.
The sorting was recommended as follows:
LIQUIDS: (orange buckets) pour out any unfinished beverages to decrease the weight and mess in the trash;
RECYCLING (blue rectangle bin with bottle holes): any CLEAN plastic containers or cardboard;
We explained to the children that containers need to be empty and clean, which is difficult in the cafeteria. It is suggested that containers with lids be brought home or to the classroom to be rinsed.
FOOD SCRAPS (green lined trash can): any/all half eaten or open food materials;
TRASH (black trash can): everything else – especially plastic silverware, plastic baggies, wrappers, plastic/paper plates, foil that has food on it;
We have taught the children, when in doubt, throw it out. It is not worth contaminating the compost or recycling with aspirational sorting; additionally, the school will pay a contamination fee if items are placed in the wrong bins.
FOOD DONATION (purple box on tray carts): any food BOUGHT in the cafeteria that is unopened and uneaten but sealed- i.e., milk, bagged carrots, raisins, apples, any whole fruit. These are being taken by Haven’s Harvest to the Woodbridge Senior center (or other local places for people in need of food). These foods are NOT to be shared amongst children in the cafeteria and children should not be encouraged to buy extra food to donate.
For lunches brought from home, we encourage the children not to discard their waste at all, but to bring it home so their parents have a better understanding of how much they actually eat and can reduce/change accordingly.
In 2018, the waste diversion pilot showed that food waste comprised 33-50% of the trash in Beecher’s cafeteria and weighed about 50lbs each day. The first few weeks in the cafeteria this year have shown even more impressive results! The children have donated several boxes of food to Haven’s Harvest each week. In the first week of school, they diverted 200lbs of food scraps from the trash. They dumped approximately 5 gallons of liquid down the drain instead of into the trash each day. They recycled many plastic water bottles and clean cardboard containers. There was still a good deal of trash, but much less so than before. The food scraps are being taken by Blue Earth Compost to be turned into energy. We plan to continue to monitor and track the food waste/diversion and encourage the children to brainstorm ways we can decrease our trash and waste even more – such as REDUCING the use of plastic bags/cups or REFUSING food they do not plan to eat.
Additionally, our Green Team has been selling gently-used costumes for $5 at town events, Beecher Road School (BRS) Open Houses and Socials, promoting the idea of Rebuying, while raising money for the BRS PTO. We have also begun selling reusable, stainless steel water bottles for $17 with either a Beecher or Woodbridge logo, encouraging the reduction of single use plastics. We will be expanding our sustainability line of merchandise to stainless steel travel mugs and other items.
Beecher’s Green Team has promoted waste awareness and living by the many R’s: Rethink, Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Repurpose, Recycle, Rebuy, Rot, Rain Barrel, Repair, Refurbish, React, etc. We will continue to encourage thinking of possibilities and consequences before wasting.
We have just added collection containers for dried up markers! They are in several locations throughout the school. If you have dried markers at home you may send them in. These will be sent out to be recycled.
There are many other small things being done that can make a big impact. We have some great sustainable changes planned for the Halloween Hoot that include taking donations of previously owned items for the prize room.
Working together we can reduce our footprint. By becoming more aware of what we are wasting and sharing ideas with our children and with each other we can make change. Each individual small action, added together, can make a huge impact on Beecher Road School, Woodbridge, and the Earth.
Please contact Hillary at Woodbridge.Composts@gmail.com if you’d like to join our efforts in any way, including donating costumes, Hoot prizes, or buying our sustainable items.
By HILLARY DRUMM