Monday, December 22, 2008

Lunch Trays to Composting

An Eco-Friendly Project in the Cambridge Public Schools

By Jane

In October 2007, The Sprouts of Hope went to the Cambridge School Committee to speak about a big problem with our school's polystyrene lunch trays. They are harmful to the Earth both in how they are made – from oil – and when they are thrown away, usually in landfills. Some of the trays get recycled, but then they are made into things that end up getting tossed into landfills anyway.

At our school, we decided to make signs to show kids where to recycle the trays; before we did made these signs, most of the kids tossed the polystyrene trays into the regular trash. Now, the signs help; more of the trays at least get recycled, even though they have to be driven to Boston for this to happen.

When we went to the School Committee meeting, each of the Sprouts, along with a few others kids from our school who care about these issues, wrote about why she thought the school committee should do something to replace the polystyrene trays. It turned out that we had to go back a second time about a month later to talk some more about all of this, but on our second visit the members unanimously passed a motion requiring the Superintendent to do research to find an eco- friendly alternative for this tray. Watching them cast this vote made us feel really good.

The Superintendent formed a committee that studied possibilities. They looked at using reusable trays and getting dishwashers to wash them, but that wasn't cost effective and it uses too much water. They could find trays that we could compost but not ones that would come close enough in price to the very inexpensive polystyrene ones. So after studying all of this, the Superintendent proposed that a pilot composting program be started in our school, King Open, and then hopefully after we do it, this composting effort will spread throughout all of the Cambridge public schools. All of this makes sense. We really want to use trays that we can compost -- as soon as their price comes down, as it is doing -- so this means when we switch to using those trays, and then both the trays and our food can go into the city’s big composting program.

About a year later – on December 16, 2008 – the Sprouts and two other students from King Open – talked with the Cambridge School Committee about the progress being made on our composting program. But we reminded them that even though we are really happy to be doing the composting pilot at our school that our goal is still to replace the polystyrene lunch trays in all of the Cambridge Public Schools.

Each of us talked for about two minutes about what we are doing at our school to help put this program into action. We told them how we are going to have a composting pep rally at our school. To lead off the pep rally, we are going to show a You Tube video of Will.I.Am's song “Yes We Can” that uses the words of President-elect Barack Obama.

We want everyone in the school to feel a part of this effort, so there are going to be auditions for parts in the few short skits we created. Here is some of what we told the school committee about these skits: These will be sketches about people like Ruby Bridges, an African-American girl who went to school even when white people shouted mean things at her and told her she could not go to their school. And because our school is named after Martin Luther King, Jr., the pep rally will end with words he might have said if he was with us today.

Here is part of what Dr. King’s voice will say:

“Having confidence in ourselves and our goals gave us the ability to accomplish what no one thought we could. Now, at King Open, we have the chance to show that what each student does matters a lot. By not letting anyone tell you that your effort does not matter, each of you can make our new composting program
a big success. And when you succeed, you will become leaders in Cambridge. Other schools and students will learn from you how to protect the planet Earth. I’m proud you named your school after me, especially at times like this when we say, “Yes We Can."

Along with students in an after-school science group and with our science teacher, Donna, we are working hard on making this composting project work at our school. The members of the school committee have been very supportive or our efforts, and they tell us to be patient and it will happen step-by-step. We have learned that getting a project like this done requires all of us taking little steps and taking them together. And even though it seems like a lot of time has gone by since we first told the school committee about the lunch tray problem, just a year later we are moving from having no composting program in the Cambridge schools and polystyrene trays in all of Cambridge Public Schools to having King Open’s composting program starting soon. I say it's a job well done.

After we spoke, the CEO of the Cambridge School Department told the school committee that composting is going to start at our school in late January. It's the first time we heard an actual date, so now we're excited it will happen soon.

As we've been working on this cafeteria project, we met a woman named Kelly Dunn who was working for the Cambridge Department of Public Works. She was in charge of recycling in the city, and she came and talked with us and was really eager to hear our ideas about how we could make our cafeteria and school more "green." It was really fun talking with her; she listened to our ideas, and she was a big supporter of our efforts to get the composting program started at our school and hopefully at a lot of other schools in Cambridge. There she is with us in this photograph -- that's her in the white sweater.

In the fall, we were sad to hear that she was leaving Cambridge to take a "green" job at Boston University -- she is now the sustainability coordinator for B.U.'s dining services, but we were happy for her because we knew she'd do a GREAT job!! And now The Boston Globe has written an article about her, and so we want to give you a link so you can meet Kelly and hear about all the things she is doing to make Boston University a greener place to eat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letters to President Obama: Kids and Environmental Action

In the middle of November, President-elect Barack Obama gave a very cool talk about climate change on his blog. We listened to it and really liked it when he said how much he cared doing something about what is happening to our planet as it gets warmer and warmer when he gets to be our President.

Listen to President-elect Obama talk about all of this on his Weblog at

Hearing this gave us an idea. Since we are involved with a lot of environmental issues in our hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, we decided to write to President-elect Obama and tell to let him know how glad we are that he is going to be our President and tell him about what we are doing so he can get a sense of how kids want to be taken seriously in all of the change that is going to have to happen. So much of what is going on now is going to affect what it's going to be like when we are grown-ups. We think kids like us should be included in finding a way to make this a better place for all of us to live. So we wrote our letters, which we will show you, and we are urging you to write to him, too. And if you want to send us your letters -- talking about what you are doing in your community to make the world a better place for us to grow up in -- we'd love to read them and share them with others who will come to our blog.

Letter to President Obama
Roots & Shoots: The Obama Connection

Dear President Obama:

My name is Mia and I am really happy you will be our next President. I live in Cambridge, MA where I am part of a Roots and Shoots group called "The Sprouts of Hope." Roots and Shoots is an organization started by Jane Goodall for kids all around the world. She started Roots and Shoots ( in Tanzania with just a small group of kids. It has grown and grown and now there are Roots and Shoots groups around the world.
Jane Goodall started this group because she knew kids wanted to make a difference in their communities but they didn't know how. The idea was kids, like those in Roots and Shoots, are small, but if they want to they can make a big difference.

You have shown the world than anyone can be President. We know that what we do can make a difference. That is why we are trying to make our school greener. We are helping to start a composting program in our school in addition to other projects we do.

"Yes We Can!" is how we are introducing our program. At our Cambridge public school, King Open, you are a big figure. In the beginning of the year, you could hear "Obama 'O8" ringing through the hall and see it on stickers, buttons, and T-shirts students word proudly. When me, my mom, and two friends made calls to get out the vote the day before the elections, we knew even our calls (we mostly got answering machines) were making a difference.

As an environmental group that does projects to make our community more green, we will really appreciate the things you are going to do as President to make our country more green.


Sincerely, Mia and The Sprouts of Hope

Letter to President Obama: Helping the Environment

Dear President Obama

We are so glad and happy you won the election! We are the Sprouts of Hope, a Roots and Shoots group ( The Sprouts of Hope is an environmental group. We were very excited when we found out you had won. We think you will help with all our environmental issues, such as global warming.We have recently won the Cambridge GoGreen Award for all of our activities.

We have done plenty of things such as organizing Waste-Free Lunch Days at our school. We have done a "Stop Global Warming" walk as part of the nationwide StepItUp campaign. In January, our school is going to be the 1st school in Cambridge to start composting.

As Sprouts, we really admire you and hope you will help make a positive change in the environment.

Sincerely, Kaya in the Sprouts of Hope group

P.S. Tell your daughters hi! We think your daughters are really awesome? The Sprouts of Hope are 7 girls, ages 11-13, in Cambridge, MA

Makes change

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Letters to President Obama: Inspiring Us

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Hi! My name is Lilly. I am 12 years old and I go to a Cambridge public school. I am writing to tell you how excited we are that you have been elected because I and the rest of my environmental group think you will help with environmental issues.

Also we wanted you to know that we are using you as an inspiration for the (school district's first) composting program in January (same month you are inaugurated!) that we are starting in our school. To get the other kids at our school informed and excited, we are having a schoolwide assembly. In the assembly, we are including a music video called "Yes We can" by Will I Am with you in it. ( Also we have some skits that different kids in the school will be performing. Its main idea is "yes we can" (our logo for the composting program, too) and the skits feature Ruby Bridges, Craig Mello, Dolores Huerta, Sally Ride and Martin Luther King, Jr. and talk about times in their lives when they found a way to get through difficult times by saying "yes we can."

Congratulations again! Sincerely, Lilly, a Sprouts of Hope member.

Dear President Obama,
I am so glad you are now the President. There are people who I think of as people really moving the community forward. Those are people like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr, and more recently you. Those people help people (and whole communities) like me, everyday people, realize how many things are possible.
That relates to my Roots and Shoots group; if our composting pilot program works in our school, maybe it can spread to other schools in Cambridge,and possibly farther away. We are letting other schools know that composting can work. By doing this, we also know we are helping the planet. We're so glad you want to help the planet, too, by taking on the problem of climate change.
Sincerely, Risa, Cambridge, MA

Letters to President Obama: Making a Difference

Dear Soon-to-be President Obama,

I am very, very, very, very, very, VERY happy that you have been elected our next President. Congratulations! I knew that you were very interested in the global climate issues in our world and we, as the Roots and Shoots group, The Sprouts of Hope, really agree with the speech you made on climate change.

As a Roots and Shoots group, one of our main priorities is the climate and the world we live in. We have many influences like Jane Goodall and Martin Luther King, Jr, but you are also a great influence to us because the way you persisted and kept giving speech after speech in many different states really proved that eventually we will make a difference and that we can make a change, especially a good one. Already, we are going to use a video made and dedicated to you ( for a school assembly we will have about composting. We have many different projects and to know that a person of any race, gender, country, etc. can make a difference really inspires us so much. So thank you very much, Mr. Obama, for your persistence that proved to us that anyone can make a difference. Or as you would say, "Yes We can."

Sincerely, Jane, Sprouts of Hope, Cambridge, MA

P.S. Thank you for your time to read this message. Congratulations again!

Letters to President Obama: Yes We Can!

Dear President Elect Obama,
My name is Eliza. I am 11 years old. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I am part of a Roots and Shoots group. Roots and Shoots is Jane Goodall's international organization for kids. We try to promote peace and do community service for animals and the environment.
My family is so excited that you are the President-elect. My mother worked in New Hampshire every week this fall and my brothers and I went canvasing for you. I am happy that you are the President because I know that you will take care of the environment and stop global warming.
It is important for people all over to learn how to make the world a better place. Recently, our Roots and Shoots group made a donation so other kids from low-income populations can join Roots and Shoots, too, and make a difference. The fund that was made for our donation was in honor of Shari Zimble, a mother of one of our Roots and Shoots group members. Share passed away twelve days before the election. The dedication of the fund was to honor Shari's life and the things she stood for. One of those things was change. We know that you, as President, will stand for a healthier, more peaceful, environment and community of our country and planet, and will make change. Thank you so much for caring, like us, about the future of the earth, and we know you will make a positive difference.
Congrats on the President Elect!
Sincerely, Eliza, a Sprout of Hope, the Cambridge chapter of Roots & Shoots

Letters to President Obama: The 6 R's

Dear President Obama,

This past February I went to Nashua, New Hampshire to see you speak. In October, we went back to canvas. My mom and I knocked on doors and handed out information.

I am part of a Roots and Shoots group called The Sprouts of Hope. We do projects in our community to try to make the world a better place.
We realize how interested you have been in climate change and global warming. We have seen your climate change video. The Sprouts have made a pledge card using the 6 R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Renew, Rethink and Rot (compost). People sign the card when they pledge to live by the 6 R's.

We have found that a lot of people care about the environment and are grateful that now we have a leader who will help us to reach our goals.

Congratulations on becoming our next President.

Sincerely, Maya and The Sprouts of Hope