High School Green Team implements sustainability in the cafeteria

The lunch period of a typical high school student is rushed, loud, and crazy, and the last thing on his/her mind is whether or not their lunch tray is compostable or their single-use fork is a recyclable type of plastic. Resulting from this chaos, the Wellesley High School Green Team observed an abundance of recyclables left in traditional trash barrels over the last year and decided to implement a program to adjust the habits of the high school student body.

Beginning in the new year, the WHS Green Team put into practice a new set of guidelines for faculty lunch monitors in the cafeteria, who encourage students to recycle as they throw out the trash from their lunch. According to the Green Team, when faculty members monitored student’s lunches prior to this month, they primarily instructed students to discard their waste in trash barrels. The new guidelines focus on an increased amount of recycling as a school-wide goal.

“[Having teachers involved in recycling promotion] is important because students need as many people enforcing recycling as possible in order to make it a habit in their life,” said Green Team member Eleanor Boyd. “A role of teachers is to teach us life skills along with their [academic] subject, and by that reasoning, I think recycling is something worth teaching.”

The new push from faculty monitors comes in parallel with already-existing student efforts. Beginning March 2014, Green Team members have personally directed other students’ waste disposal by standing near recycling bins and trash barrels on a weekly basis, instructing students on what items can and cannot be recycled. The students also direct their peers to remove any excess food remaining on their recyclables, which has the potential to contaminate entire bags of recycling.

The Green Team’s campaign for increased recycling at the high school arose in the wake of the their efforts last year to increase the number of recycling bins available in the cafeteria. The Green Team coordinated the purchase of six additional recycling bins in March, raising the total number to eight, creating a 1:1 ratio of trash cans to recycling bins. There are also two additional recycling bays built into the cafeteria walls, each with four bins for different types of recycling, as well as sinks to rinse out recyclables that still contain food.

Green Team members hope that the promotional campaign they’ve put together at the high school will serve as a model. As put by Green Team member Kyle Wang, “by establishing good systems of recycling at WHS, we hope we set a precedent for other schools in the district to pursue similar practices.”

“[Enforcing recycling during lunch] is important because lunch is time when students create the most trash,” said Boyd. “By changing their habits during lunch, we can affect their every meal and hopefully the rest of their life, reducing trash for years to come.”

(Matthew Hornung & Olivia Gieger)

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