A Growing Problem

At at urban elementary school in New England, we educators and students have realized there is a problem with increasing amounts of waste in the classrooms. Years ago, trash bins that previously held mostly pencil shavings, used tissues, and old band aids now were overflowing with a mix of Styro-foam trays, plastic packaging, and half eaten food swimming in milk. The custodial staff began visiting each classroom not once, but on average three times a day to empty the trash and recycling bins.

What’s going on? We decided to look further into the matter.  Prior to continuing, however, it’s important to understand some key structures that affect our school’s daily programming.

Five Really Awesome Things Currently In Existence:

  1. All students have an option of participating in the school’s free breakfast and lunch program.
  2. All students can eat meals using reusable dinnerware.
  3. The classrooms come equipped with a refrigerator, dishwasher and sinks, allowing students to eat in their learning spaces.
  4. Students, regardless their family’s socioeconomic status, share the educational resources provided in the classroom, including school supplies.
  5. There are recycle bins provided to each classroom.

This set up provides the foundation for all children at our school to receive an equitable education while practicing resourcefulness. The crowning achievement of having meals in the classroom transforms meal time into a dignified experience rife with learning opportunities.

Gratitude For Our Partners

Attaining this incredibly beneficial arrangement for the children was not simple. It required the hard work and communication across many district departments. While this site contains writing on how the current food delivery system is experienced in our classrooms and student consumption and disposal methods, it in no way is criticizing the food service’s or custodial department’s policies or the actions of its individual members.  On the contrary, we fully recognize the complexity of their work and express our utmost gratitude for their willing partnership and dedicated efforts in helping produce a hunger free day and clean environment for our diverse student body.

Moving Forward

With the increasing environmental research compiled on landfill and ocean pollution, we can no longer indulge in the luxury of learning about problems for a homework assignment while refusing to make a genuine effort to examine our individual role in the consumption chain.

Our classrooms are the epicenter of impending systemic change, because like Whitney Houston already knew decades ago, children are the future. Therefore, we begin our journey towards zero waste in learning more about the consumption and disposal patterns in the classroom.