YARMOUTH — Kindergarten through eighth-grade students have successfully turned their cafeterias green by increasing recycling and reducing waste.
Becki Schreiber, director of school nutrition, said the green cafeteria program involves lunch tray break down stations for trash, returnables and recyclables. In addition, each cafeteria has switched from plastic utensils to reusable flatware.
“Students, teachers, and parent volunteers have all helped in this effort,” Schreiber said. “Both the middle school environmental team and student leadership have been very supportive.”
Merry Kahn, Harrison Middle School librarian and advisor of the eTeam, said working with Schreiber on the cafeteria project has been a pleasure.
“The students are all getting used to the idea of throwing away trash and using the recycling bucket or the returnable bin,” Kahn said. “This is a positive change the students enjoy.”
Kahn said the eTeam is also involved in promoting Green Streets Day by encouraging students to use earth-friendly ways of getting to school once a month. She said the students will soon investigate how to reduce the need for water bottles, too.
“There are so many concerns, but the cafeteria issue needed to be addressed and Becki did a great job initiating and organizing the effort,” she said. “I just give her tremendous credit.”
Carrie Adams, an eighth-grade member of the eTeam, said she and other members of the group wanted to make sure recyclable materials did not get thrown away any more.
“We are all recycling as much as we can in the cafeteria now,” she said. “Everybody cares about this and is doing a great job.”
School nutritionist manager Barbara Pride said the children have really become involved in the recycling effort.
“These children are so young and are learning about what it means to recycle,” she said. “It is amazing to watch.”
Pride said there are about 160 milk cartons sold per day at Rowe School. She said the cartons, the straws and the cereal boxes are all being recycled now. She said it is impressive to see five- and six-year old students involved in environmental education at such a young age.
“These kids are happy to do this,” she said. “They ask questions and are very conscious of what it means.”
Pride said the kitchen has gone from three garbage bags to one per day since the first day of the green cafeteria program. Renee Gray, substitute worker in the Nutrition Department, said at the middle school the trash has been reduced from five bags daily to two.
Gray is a former environmental engineer at the Department of Environmental Protection and said her involvement with the green cafeteria program was a natural extension of her prior job. She said the process to incorporate green practices in the food department was initiated in the district’s kitchens about a year ago and said the students are eagerly participating.
“They know about recycling from home, which makes it an easy transition at school,” she said. “They have even expressed an interest in learning about composting.”
According to Schreiber, Gray has been an enormous help in getting the program up and running.
“We undoubtedly would not have come this far in recycling and
composting without her energy, expertise and commitment,” she said. “I
consider her our ‘guru.'”
Gray said in addition to the removal of plastic silverware, the schools may also eliminate paper plates and paper bowls.
The last step to incorporate all schools in the cafeteria program is to include the high school. Gray said because the students are a more fluid population, the uses in a high school green cafeteria will be different.
“We will work on the high school next and use student input,” she said. “We are trying to make appropriate changes districtwide, and have done well so far.”
Students at Yarmouth Middle School, Elementary School and Rowe School have learned to recycle and reduce waste by sorting their trash.