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Worthington School’s Pilot Program Targets Zero-Waste Cafeteria

by Deena Kloss

School Lunch LABack to school means back to packing and buying school lunches for millions of students and their parents. It also means dumpsters filling with uneaten food, milk cartons, plastic packaging and lunch trays.

According to TheLunchBox.org, the typical American school kid generates 67 pounds of discarded lunch waste per school year. That is more than 18,000 pounds yearly for the average-sized elementary school.

On Earth Day 2013 (April 22), students at Evening Street Elementary in Worthington, with support from school principal Mary Rykowski, embarked on journey toward a zero-waste cafeteria, where all waste materials are diverted from landfills by being recycled or composted.

The first week brought long lines as students learned how to sort their lunch waste into three containers: compost, recycling and landfill. At the end of the line, buyers stacked their one-use polystyrene trays, saving landfill space. “Students caught on in a matter of days,” said Rykowski. “They know they’re doing something good for the environment and it opens the door to that conversation.”

Evening Street’s cafeteria waste went from an average of 10 bags of landfill each day to 1.5, equaling an 86% reduction in waste to landfills. By the end of a six-week test period students had diverted 2,950 pounds of waste from going to landfills. The food scraps collected from the students were taken to a compost facility to become nutrient-rich soil.

Karen Ferris, creator of the nonprofit organization Big Green Head, started the Do Green Feel Good program with the purpose of educating people and implementing zero-waste processes at schools, businesses and events. “Bringing the program to schools is a terrific opportunity to teach our future leaders to be conservationists and mindful of the impact their choices have on the environment.”

For more information, visit BigGreenHead.com.

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