I’m proud of our Seed parents for keeping the trash down. Several days ago we collected the whole school’s lunch trash for the whole week. At the end of each day I went from room to room with a recycled grocery bag, filling it up with the wrappers and containers left over from the children’s lunches. Amazingly, some of the classes only had a string cheese wrapper and empty yogurt container for their entire day’s collection. I have to say, the toddlers had the least amount of trash over all. As the students grew older, the trash increased, especially the non-recyclable kind.
When I met with the 3rd/4th graders to sort out the trash and make a visual display, we talked about this trend. One thought we came up with is that toddlers don’t have as much influence as elementary students about what comes to school in their lunches. They aren’t as likely to be at the grocery store lobbying for chips or other treats. I also notice that most of the toddlers (and many of the older children, actually) bring their lunches in completely reusable containers. To support this as a staff, we are vigilant about making sure the containers, lids and utensils make it back into the lunch box.
Once we completed our display, we observed that about half of the trash was recyclable. This included mostly GoGo Squeez pouches, yogurt cups, foil, paper plates and juice boxes. We talked about ways we could reduce this kind of trash, even though it’s recyclable. The students were quick to think of buying yogurt in larger containers and using smaller recyclable ones for lunch. We talked about the GoGo Squeez pouches and one idea tossed around for reducing that kind of trash was to only ask for/bring them once a week instead of every day.
When we moved to the other side of the board to the non-recyclables, we got into the convenience issue. The string cheese wrappers provided an excellent example. Yes, it’s cheaper to buy a larger chunk of mozzarella and cut it into single portions. And it also takes more time and the cheese doesn’t stay sealed up. When we looked at how we could reduce the non-recyclable trash most easily, it was the plastic bags that stood out. They are definitely convenient, and they can also easily be replaced by reusable containers. Plastic bags are cheap in the short term but do we really want our planet littered with these?
I realize that by talking trash, I’m preaching to our Seed choir of primarily conscientious reusable container users. I’m delighted that a whole week of lunch trash for our entire school fit into four grocery bags. It also makes me happy to know that half of that trash is recyclable. However, my thinking is that if there are any ways we can reduce our trash even more, we should seize the opportunity. Plastic bags seem like a logical starting point.