School Beat: Waste Free Wednesdays

By Larry Watters, Principal, Parkside Elementary

Research has shown that Americans waste enough food every day to fill a football stadium, and that one third of all food is wasted at the retail and consumer level.  Food waste by children in schools has been found to be similar to the rest of the population.  In addition, it has been documented that at least fifty percent of school lunch trash heading to the landfill is comprised of food and drink packaging.

In an effort to reduce food waste and the amount of trash sent to the local landfill, Parkside Elementary’s Sustainability Team recently proposed the “Waste Free Wednesday” challenge to the whole school.  Students were challenged to employ new thinking and practices to reduce typical lunchroom waste to fifty percent of the usual output.

The Sustainability Team brainstormed and researched ideas and strategies that students could use to diminish the amount of trash that was being deposited in the barrel labeled “Landfill”.  They complied their list and presented these strategies to all students in the building from kindergarten thru fifth grade. Their PowerPoint presentation was specifically directed to Hot Lunch and Cold Lunch students, but may offer some ideas that you may use to reduce your waste during lunch.

Cold Lunch Ideas:

  • Pack in a reusable lunchbox, not a bag
  • Use reusable containers within the box, not plastic bags
  • Don’t use a straw with milk
  • Bring a reusable water bottle
  • Choose a snack without a disposable bag.
  • Eat all the food that’s packed for you, or bring it home.

Hot Lunch Ideas:

  • Don’t use a straw with milk.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle instead of milk
  • Bring your own fork
  • Choose wisely in line and eat what you take

I am proud to state that the Parkside students were able to meet the challenge and produce fifty percent less waste than typically produced during our first “Waste Free Wednesday”.  Hopefully students will continue these practices outside our challenge days and our environment will be better for it.  We hope that you consider accepting the challenge and implement some of these practices yourself.