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.

1 comment:

Kaya said...

Yeah Jane! Keep on writing! Go Sprouts!!!!!!!!!