On Saturday, October 8, 2011, students from Fremont's 5 high schools hosted a public Green Fair at The Hub- the city's downtown open air mall.
The event included workshops taught by students and community members, the sale of green products by vendors and student groups alike, and hands-on opportunities to learn to make paper, turn cloth scraps into useable blankets and more.
Students began planning and organizing for the event six months earlier, and their efforts paid off. One of their main goals was to host the fair in a more public space, "Although our 1st two events at Irvington High and American High were great, we really wanted this to be a community event," said lead organizer Kelly Kong, a senior at Irvington High. "I'm really happy that it all came together and grateful for the support of [American High Chemistry Teacher] Mrs. Sykes who helped us finalize access to The Hub."
All 5 comprehensive high schools in Fremont participated in the event. Students from Kennedy High hosted a table selling crafts made from reuse materials and passed out flyers describing the school's Green Tech program. Mission hosted the "Kids Zone" with hands on reuse crafts and environmentally themed face painting. American High students taught papermaking and sold environmentally themed crafts and soaps. Irvington's stitchery class made blankets from scrap cloth for Project Linus. Students from all 5 schools worked behind the scenes to organize the event and act as hosts to community members at Saturday's event.
Students recruited a wide range of vendors and organizations to participate as well, including: BART, Tri-City Ecology Center, ESA Associates, The City of Fremont, The Sierra Club, Bay Friendly Gardening, Master Gardeners, Energy Upgrade California, StopWaste.Org, Breathe California, East Bay Regional Parks, Kate's Caring Gifts, Allied Waste, Save the Bay, and more.
The Oakland Unified School District, StopWaste.Org and Waste Management hosted a "Green Gloves" symposium Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at the Chabot Space and Science Center.
The event showcased the efforts of OUSD's custodial services to reduce waste, expand recycling, and develop food scrap diversion programs at schools.
A panel of featured custodians shared their stories of developing diversion programs at their schools and answered questions about getting student and administrative support. The panel exuded pride in their work and their emerging roles as environmental leaders on campus. "We are the last line of defense... students look to us to learn what to do." "I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I set this up and it works," were among the words of wisdom from the panel.
Custodians were honored with certificates celebrating their accomplishments developing food scrap diversion programs at their sites. Each honoree received a framed certificate for the school, and one to keep personally in recognition of their leadership.
Will Bakx makes compost for a living. As co-owner and soil scientist for Sonoma Compost, Mr. Bakx has helped divert over 1.3 million tons of organic materials away from landfills to be reprocessed into organic compost and mulches for the landscapes, farms and vineyards of Sonoma County. Recently, Will has seen a dramatic increase in the availability of bioplastics in stores resulting in more of these items coming to his facilities. While he understands the motivation of eco-conscious consumers, he is troubled by the negative impact these materials have on his facility and the product he makes.
On Thursday, February 10, 2011, the Alameda County Recycling Board heard the second in a series of three presentations about bioplastics. Will Bakx was joined by Malika Thorn of Grover Composting to share the composters’ perspective on these materials.
Bakx highlighted many challenges commercial composters encounter when faced with so called "compostable" plastics. Currently, bioplastics are made in all shapes and colors making them indistinguishable from traditional plastics. When consumers put organic waste in a bioplastic bag to send to composting, it is impossible for his crew of pickers to identify the composition of the bag.
Other materials such as “compostable” cups and forks present additional challenges. While these materials may have met a laboratory standard known as ATSM 6400 showing that they compost in the lab within six months, Bakx notes that this does not at all represent the conditions or practices used by commercial composters. “It is ridiculous that they have made a lab standard for compostability, when in fact many of these materials do not compost in the majority of existing facilities- D6400 needs to conform to the practices of the composter.”
Bakx used to allow special loads from trusted sources to include bioplastic bags to be composted. These loads were usually from special events where the event host could certify what types of bioplastics were being sent along with traditional organic wastes. However, this presented another challenge- Bakx risked losing his coveted OMRI (http://www.omri.org/-Organic Materials Review Institute) listing. “OMRI had a number of concerns with bioplastics, including the fact that they are a synthetic material and often produced from genetically modified crops,” said Bakx.
From a practical standpoint, Bakx directs his crews to pull out all materials that appear to be plastic from the compost system to avoid contaminating his soils. The last stop for plastics pulled from the compost system is the landfill.
Bakx and Thorn agreed that the bioplastic industry is immature, leading to confusion among consumers. While they have both seen improvements in the labeling and performance of some materials, they note that the industry still has a long way to go.
Both hope that the industry reaches a point where:
Bioplastics are easily identifiable by color, fluorescence under black light, or some other low-tech method
Bioplastic materials achieve acceptance through the National Organic Program
Bioplastic materials actually compost in existing systems.
Additionally, Bakx hopes to reserve “compostable” labeling for materials that help increase diversion of organic materials. He is in favor of pursuing “bio-bag” technology to make food scrap diversion easier, but is against a system where he would be in the business of turning water bottles into compost. “Biobags could help increase diversion, and they represent such a small volume of the overall system that they could be considered ‘incidentals,’ reducing fears of contamination.”
Until that day, bioplastic materials will be a burden on commercial composters and continue to end up in the landfill.
On Thursday, March 10, 2011, the Recycling Board will hear a presentation from Patty Moore, a well know plastics recycling broker who will share her perspectives about the impacts of bioplastic on traditional recycling streams. Members of the public are welcome to attend this meeting scheduled for 7:00 PM at City Hall in Hayward, CA.
Waste audits at schools reveal the cafeteria to be one of the largest campus generators of waste destined for landfills. Students quickly note that if they could eliminate plastic utensils, foam trays, and plastic wrap from the cafeteria, nearly everything else could be composted. Implementation of food scrap diversion to composting has many advantages including reduced impact on landfill space, reduced production of methane- a powerful greenhouse gas, and restoration of soil nutrients stored in biodegradable materials like food and food-soiled paper.
In an effort to eliminate plastic from the cafeteria schools often investigate switching to bioplastic materials, such as forks made from potato starches which are often advertised as biodegradeable or compostable. To be sure, bioplastics are being heavily promoted by companies eager to meet the needs of eco-minded consumers concerned with litter, waste, the use of non-renewable resources, and the desire to "be green."
According to Scott Smithline of Californians Against Waste we are in the "wild-west phase" of bioplastics. The industry is quickly developing new products based on a wide range of manufacturing processes. This frequently leads to conflicting claims from the vendors of these products, some of which are in violation of state law.
Smithline presented a "Bioplastics Primer" to the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board on January 13, 2011. The presentation provided definitions for many terms associated with these products (bioplastic, degradable, biodegradable, compostable, etc), described how different bioplastics are synthesized, and gave an overview of the challenges these materials present for recyclers and composters alike.
These materials are "garbage."
Recycling facilities have no easy way to distinguish a biobased plastic bottle from a petroleum based product. This is a problem because biobased plastics contaminate traditional recycling streams and weaken materials made from recycled plastic. From the point of view of the recycler, these materials are "garbage."
Similarly, composting facilities have difficulty distinguishing bioplastics from traditional plastics, and usually pull all plastic-like materials out of the compost stream and send them to traditional landfills. At this time, most bioplastics advertised as "compostable" fail to biodegrade in existing commercial composting facilities. (Click here to read BioPlastics to the Rescue? Part II- A composter's perspective)
Smithline's presentation includes references to important state laws and engineering standards that concerned consumers should understand. For example, the California Public Resources Code, Section 42355, requires marketing claims to be backed up by scientific testing in accordance with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specifications. In particular, ASTM 6400 defines pass/fail standards for compostable materials. To further complicate matters, ASTM's current standards for compostability do not always reflect current composting industry practice, potentially allowing some products to make a legitimate ASTM claim of compostability while failing to actually compost in available systems.
A number of manufactures further complicate matters by indicating that their product subscribed to an ASTM "test method." ASTM test methods describe how to test materials, but do not set a pass/fail standard for performance. While an ASTM labeled product may appear to be rigorously tested, the savvy consumer must look up the referenced ASTM standard to see if it is meaningful.
Certainly there are problems in our current system of disposable one-use products made from non-renewable petroleum based products. And certainly, bioplastics hold some promise to address some of these concerns. However, bioplastics currently present many challenges such as failing to adequately meet claims of compostability, diverting crop land from food uses, and potentially encouraging litter ("hey, it's compostable!").
So, what should a school do? How should students investigate this question?
The 4Rs hierarchy (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) provides a good framework for decision making. Neither plastics, nor bioplastics perform well using 4Rs criteria. Neither promotes reduced consumption or reuse of materials. Many traditional plastics are recyclable, though most found in the cafeteria are not. Most bioplastics cannot be recycled at this time and in fact harm traditional recycling processes. Most bioplastics, at this time, fail to compost in a meaningful way. Both products contribute to litter and reinforce a single-use, disposable point of view that is incompatible with 4Rs thinking.
Back to the Future?
If only there were a durable, reusable alternative to disposable plastic forks and foam trays! Schools are beginning to investigate "Back to the Future" solutions to bring back metal utensils, sturdy trays and dishwashers. One school in the Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project network designed a plan for a "utensil drive" in the community to collect mis-matched flatware to be used in the cafeteria if the school district would install a dishwasher. Unfortunately, long term investment in equipment loses out in budget battles to short term continuous spending on cheap plastics. Schools are also concerned with safety, labor costs, and management of utensils. These concerns place sustainable cafeteria systems out of reach for most schools.
Working with what you've got.
In the end, students and staff are faced with the challenge of reducing waste in cafeterias where food waste and plastic coexist. Currently, most schools implement a "one bin" system where everything goes in the garbage can destined for the landfill, even when waste audits show that over 80% of the material could be composted.
For some schools and many students the "one bin" system is unacceptable and they are inspired to divert compostable materials through a sorting system. These systems are labor intensive and require constant education and monitoring of the bins to avoid contamination of compostable green waste. They also depend on high degrees of coordination between teachers, cafeteria and custodial staff, administration, and students.
Schools interested in diverting green waste should keep the following big picture ideas in focus:
Wherever possible, reduce the purchasing of materials destined for landfill that will contaminate the recycling and green waste streams
Ensure that adequate "back-end" systems are in place to handle the green waste. Does your school have a green waste bin or dumpster serviced by your waste hauler? Does the cafeteria and custodial staff have the training, time and resources to move green waste to the proper dumpster?
Ensure that adequate "front-end" systems are in place to ensure that students and staff put green waste in the proper place.
Does the school have clearly labeled bins for green waste and food soiled paper? For recyclable bottles and cans? For disposable forks and other materials destined for the landfill?
Is there a method for teaching students how to use the system? Is the cafeteria configured to promote learning through posters, presentations and other methods to teach these systems? Are periodic reminders provided? Is anyone monitoring what people are putting in the bins to avoid contamination?
Plan for the "ick-factor." How will your school handle wet wastes like milk and juice? What have you learned from handling co-mingled garbage that will help you handle green-waste? Does your hauler allow you to put compostable materials in plastic bags (that are cut away and removed at the compost facility)?
Learn from the hard work of others. A number of schools have already developed systems, materials, and curriculum to run, manage, and teach the use of a campus green waste system.
Glenview Elementary School in Oakland has produced an excellent rap music video that provides an overview of their system while acting as a training tool for new students
Kitchen staff from Irvington High School in Fremont have helped other cafeterias implement a kitchen galley food scrap program to divert food scraps as well as waxed and food soiled papers and cardboards.
Plan for ongoing training and monitoring. Proper use of a school food scrap system depends on educating each generation of students and monitoring diversion stations to help avoid contamination. Some schools use student lunch room monitors, others engage parent volunteers.
Regularly report diversion data and celebrate successes. Not only is this good practice for schools as an educational institution, but it also helps to keep attention on the issue.
Look for opportunities to expand the initiative. Schools that start green waste systems in the cafeteria are also able to divert green waste from on-campus special events (staff meetings, pot-lucks, etc). This helps to raise awareness within the broader school community and has the potential to inform community members about opportunities to participate in food scrap diversion at home.
Last, but not least, remember to engage students in the process of designing and implementing the food scrap program. Students are uniquely qualified to provide input on how campus systems work and could be improved. They know what types of messages, outreach, and education will work to inspire their peers to do the right thing.
How is your school approaching the question of bioplastics? What is your school doing to address cafeteria waste? Register or login to post your ideas in the comments below.
The Green Schools Initiative, a Berkeley based, national organization working to improve schools by creating healthier, greener school environments has released a parent toolkit for supporting green schools. The toolkit offers guidance on establishing a green team, tips for taking action, and more.
Take a look at the Green Schools video from the Initiative's director Deborah Moore, then click through to the toolkit to learn more.
Reposted with permission from generationOn, a "youth service division of Points of Light Institute, an organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world."
Go green this holiday season! The Twelve Days of Green Holidays will help you to celebrate the holidays in an Eco-nomical and Eco-friendly manner. Think of the popular holiday song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to help you spread the word how green holidays can save you money and rev up your creativity while supporting the sustainability of our planet.
Check out the ideas below for each day and see if you can incorporate them into your own holiday routines and traditions!
generationOn's 12 Days of Green Holidays...
On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me A recycled card to save cutting down a tree
On the second day of Christmas my true love said to me Artificial trees live forever; please buy a fresh green tree
On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me A tree with a root ball to save cutting down another tree
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me A set of LED lights to save up to 95% energy
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me Fresh nuts and pinecones to decorate my holiday tree! Refrain: Fresh nuts and pinecones, a set of LEDs, a tree in a rootball, a tree to be mulched and a recycled card to save a tree
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love said to me For carrying your gifts, use an eco-friendly bag, or two or three
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me Homemade wrapping paper to save yet another tree
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love said to me Be eco-friendly; don't buy toys with batteries
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love said to me Turn down your heat 5 degrees to save 10% off your energy
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love said to me Donate your old cell phone; think ecologically!
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love said to me A holiday for birds? - yes, a peanut butter and suet tree
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love said to me Time to take the tree down, time to get it mulched, think of sustainability.
Project Ideas, Resources and Reasons to "Go Green"
First Day: Make a recycled card. Store bought cards are beautiful but can be expensive. It's fun to look for holiday pictures in magazines, newspapers, calendars, old greeting cards and posters. Add fresh twigs, bark or bits of pinecones to make a special card.
Remember to save the greeting cards you receive this year to recycle next year. The amount of cards sold in the U.S. during holiday season would fill a football filed 10 stories high.
Second Day: Buy a fresh green tree. Artificial trees are reusable, but according to EarthEasy.com, real trees are the more sustainable choice.
Plastic trees are made of petroleum products and research shows that they are typically discarded after repeated use, filling up landfills. The benefit of live trees: 95% of the trees are grown on tree farms They contribute to air quality while growing They are often locally grown – saving transportation costs and added air pollution Live trees smell good! Many communities have mulching service where you can bring your tree and help your local environment.
Third Day: Buy a live tree with a root ball.
If you really don't feel comfortable cutting down trees, buy a live tree.Depending on the size, you can re-pot it after the holidays or plant in your yard. Your local nursery will help you determine how and when to replant the tree.
Fourth Day: Use LED lights. LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights use up to 95% less energy than traditional holiday bulbs.
LED Holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs.* Buy or replace some of your old lights with LED lights. And don't forget to turn them off when you go to bed!
Fifth Day: Fresh nuts and pinecones.
Use pinecones, acorns, nuts, leaves, straw, cinnamon sticks, popcorn, paper chains made of recycled paper and old wrapping paper, long with natural twine to make holiday ornaments. Or, make holiday cookies with a hole to hang from your tree.
Sixth Day: Use eco-friendly bags to carry your gifts. Instead of using plastic bags, bring your own bags. And better yet, you can give them as gifts.
Buy inexpensive canvas bags at the craft store and decorate it especially for your recipient.
Seventh Day: Homemade wrapping paper. You can wrap gifts in comics, newspaper, and old road maps.
You can make wrapping paper from used brown grocery bags.Use ink and stamps or crayons, or cutouts from magazines to decorate the brown paper. Before the paper and plastic bags became readily available items, including food were wrapped in material or with string.Use dish towels or cloth napkins to wrap gifts (that's a gift in itself!). Use natural twine with a pinecone to tie your presents. Remember to save wrapping paper you receive this holiday for next year.
Eighth Day: Don't buy toys with batteries. According to the EPA 40% of battery sales occur during the holidays.
Batteries are expensive and a toy with dead batteries can be useless and frustrating. Some batteries are hard to change especially in "educational" toys made for toddlers with sounds and lights or "talking" dolls or stuffed animals.Discarded batteries also hurt our environment. Think about games that nurture kids' creativity and board games that can provide quality family time.
Ninth Day: Turn down your heat.
According to the Sierra Club, lowering the temperature in your house 5 degrees can save 10% off your energy bill.
Tenth Day: Donate your old cell phone. (And everything else you don't use for that matter!) You can drop off your old cell phone at any Staples store through the Sierra Club's cell phone recycling program.
The Sierra Club estimates that 130 million cell phones are thrown out each year. Call your carrier or go on-line to find more information on where to donate your cell phone.
Eleventh Day: For the Birds. Kids love making suet and peanut butter pinecones and everyone will enjoy watching the birds peck at them during the cold snowy months. They make great gifts for grandparents and seniors.
Take a pine cone, tie a sturdy string or wire around the base.Spread peanut butter or suet and roll in bird seed. See BirdNature.com for directions on making suet feeders for birds.Hang them on a tree visible from your house.
Twelfth Day: Recycle your tree by mulching.
Each year 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. Of those, up to 30 million end up in landfills.Click on Earth.911.com for more information on recycling trees and a recycling center near you. Type in your zip code and the site will provide the closest recycling center.
Link to original article: http://generationon.org/global/resource/twelve-days-green-holidays
Primo's Parrilla an Argentinean Parrilla on wheels. In business for just 7 months, Peterson and Sandes hope to build a strong customer base and open a full scale restaurant in the near future.Sere Peterson and Javier Sandes are on a mission to cook up a unique business. To help achieve this, the dynamic duo created
On Saturday, November 6th, the colorful food truck rolled on to Hayward High School’s campus to cater the Leadership and Environmental Action Forum (LEAF) dinner for student environmental leaders from schools across Alameda County. LEAF’s goal is to help students develop the skills and knowledge needed to recognize and address environmental challenges at their school and in their communities. Primo’s Parrilla's business model reinforced this vision.
The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) recently launched an new initiative to raise public awareness about the recylability of tires. Discarded tires are useful in the creation of roads and retaining walls that perform better, last longer and offer safety benefits compared to traditional technologies.
Proper disposal of tires is the first step in putting them on the path toward recycling. The illegal dumping of tires in California presents a variety of environmental and health challenges as illegally dumped tires create a fire hazard and also harbor mosquito breeding grounds.
The expanded use of recycled tires in roadbeds and retaining walls is a promising way to reduce stockpiled discarded tires throughout the state. Learn more about the uses of recycled tires from CalRecycle's Green Roads Factsheet.
CalRecycle is working to engage student groups and school PTAs to help raise awareness about the proper disposal and recycling options for tires. To learn more or get involved, visit CalRecycle's Tire Management Website.
Potential service-learning opportunities:
- Leadership or government classes work with city government to organize a community "Tire Amnesty Day" to collect improperly stored or discarded tires. (http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Tires/Grants/Cleanup/)
- Digital graphics classes produce media related to proper tire disposal and recycling
- Chemistry classes investigate and report on the materials science factors of traditional asphalt vs roads paved with recycled tire content
This project has been going on much longer than the website that represents it. Lately, I've been sorting though boxes of materials created by teachers and students in the early years of the project and came across a set of children's stories written by high school students to encourage younger kids to reduce waste. The story in the gallery below, Cindy and the Haunted Bottle, got me thinking about ways to reduce waste as we approach Halloween.
There have already been many good examples of Halloween themed waste reduction in the Service-Learning Waste Reduction Project, including Wood Middle School's compelling letters to the editor last year encouraging community members not to litter their candy wrappers on the big night out.
Halloween, for many, represents an opportunity for creative reuse as costumes cycle and recycle from "superhero" one year to "zombie superhero" the next.
Here are some additional ideas for waste reduction:
- Establish a "costume case" at your home or among your friends. As regular clothes wear out or fall out of fashion, set aside ones that might contribute to an interesting costume in the future and store them in a plastic bin for use at Halloween. (If only I'd saved all the acid-wash jeans from the 80's...)
- Look for treats packaged in reusable or recyclable alternatives to plastic film and mylar bags.
- Consider eliminating individually wrapped portions of candy and substituting them with another type of treat. Last year, my kids recieved free passes for rides at the Oakland zoo from one house. Others provided Halloween themed erasers and other cool school supplies. The big hits though, were the packs of tattoo stickers that extended the fun of Halloween with Skull and Crossbones tattoos for weeks and a set of "coach" style whistles.
- Let's be realistic, though, Halloween is all about the candy. So, work with your friends and neighbors to make sure that they do the right thing with their litter and then organize a neighborhood clean-up to pick up stray wrappers before they wash down to the bay.
- Worried about little kids eating too much candy? Have the Candy Witch visit your house on Halloween night. The Candy Witch has been known to visit houses in our neighborhood to steal away the candy and leave another treat in its place. One Candy Witch left new Wii games for the kids, another left a new skateboard, for example.
- Roast pumpkin seeds. They are delicious. There are plenty of recipies online, but here's how I do it:
- Scrape the seeds out of the pumpkin and place them in a sink or pot full of water.
- As the seeds float in the water, rub off the goo. Having seeds float in water makes this process much easier and decidedly less nasty.
- Separate the seeds and set them in a strainer to dry. Place goo and guts in your green bin.
- Meanwhile, mix about 1 cup of salt with 2 quarts of water or an equivalent ratio appropriate to you amount of seeds and bring to a boil.
- Place seeds in the boiling brine, stir frequently and cook for about 15 minutes
- Strain, but don't rinse seeds.
- Heat oven to 350, place seeds on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven until dry and crisp (about 20 minutes)
- Remove from the oven, let cool, enjoy
- Compost your moldy jack-o-lantern after Halloween
- Plan ahead. A number of online resources such as GreenHalloween.Org offer lots of other tips.
Do you have a favorite trick for reducing waste on Halloween? Register, login and add it to the comments section below!
The Center for Recycling Research in Berkeley, CA recently installed an exhibit at StopWaste.Org challenging the notion that "everything is recyclable." The exhibit highlighted 10 common materials that are not easily recyclable in order to remind the public that purchasing choices should include a thought to the end of use disposal options for the item's materials. Click through the photos below to read more about the challenges presented by these products and alternatives to their use. After the pictures, read on to learn how one company is rethinking waste.
The challenges present in recycling/reclaiming materials from these products represent an opportunity for innovation. Who will invent the process for recycling these materials? Who will invent more environmentally friendly alternatives to these products?
TerraCycle is one company that has taken on the challenge of finding creative reuse opportunities for hard to recycle products such as juice boxes and mylar chip bags. TerraCycle's innovative business includes material collection and redemption programs that schools can use as a fundraising opportunityand a process called "upcycling" to transform discarded materials into new products such as backpacks made from discarded juice pouches.
TerraCycle is featured in a video series called Garbage Moguls on the National Geographic Channel. Check out the video below to see their creative process in action.