We’re not asking you to take on another New Year’s Resolution. You don’t need to till over another year to finally bring your seed-thoughts to fruition. We know you’re already eco-a-go-go. And we’re not going to get preachy about ours: SIGG is sexier than Poland Spring; get Irish guilty about not toting plastic bags; re-usable mug-tuggers deserve hugs; say no to take-out containers and hello to, "Can you put it in this?"; push earth-reverent lessons without getting called into the principal’s office; and green-wrench schools into little sun-capturing, worm-eating worlds.
We’re adding another: join WasteWise—EPA’s no-cost, voluntary program for reducing municipal solid waste. WasteWise helps set waste reduction goals and gives students a chance to create annual reports about how many precious resources they’ve saved—a pat on the back with math. There are also opportunities for public recognition, and if that means press, we’re in. (Doesn’t the public want to know summer vacationing teachers are saving precious tax dollars by running volunteer recycling programs?)
It’s about time the Department of Sanitation conduct a separate waste characterization study for schools so a cost benefit analysis can be done (why do we have to look to California data?), but in the meantime, let’s show how much paper and other right-to-new-lifers we can save from the landfill. Then it’s easier to talk about what non-recycling schools are stacking up in felled trees and racking up in tipping fees.
Plus, we’ll get a frameable annual graphic of waste and greenhouse gases our Green Teams averted. There’s even a support hotline for those moments when we feel we’re short our lofty goals: (800) EPA-WISE! Or, we can go local by calling waste reduction extraordinaire, Rachel Chaput, EPA Region 2, at 212-637-4116.
We’re going to kick it off with a little An Inconvenient Truth. Add a very convenient worksheet to pique students’ grade-getting attention during viewing. Then we’ll top it off with a trip to the Museum of Natural History’s Climate Change exhibit (NTS: download the exhibit worksheets, make double-sided copies). EPA also has a handy PowerPoint to make the connection between waste and global warming.
So now that it’s on the list, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and find out if we’re really garbage-under-the-fingernails in it to weigh it; only 2009-time will tell.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 finally gives NYC a sustainability plan we can sink our teeth into. Thankfully, it sets forth goals for greening NYC schools around energy education, cleaner boilers and buses, and opening our schoolyards as public playgrounds. (Don’t bite down too hard though, because it doesn’t give you anything trashy to chew own—the Department of Sanitation’s Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan is supposed to take care of the waste side story.)
In order to increase the impact of energy efficiency, there are plans around energy awareness campaigns in schools (see page 111). This could be why there were conEdison comic books all over the place at the beginning of the school year. (Did someone feel the best way to reduce our City’s energy consumption long-term is to educate our youth? Perhaps the same principle could be applied to school recycling?)
City Council passed a Local Law 42 in 2005 mandating full-size schools buses be retrofitted to reduce emissions. PlaNYC gives this law a tougher jawbone by including small buses that tend to run on diesel. Plus, there’s a plan to get the old, gassy yellow dogs off the road a little sooner (127).
For those choking on the number four and six burn-off particulates coming from the monstrosities that hang out in our basements, breathing their heavy breath into our classrooms and asthma-ridden neighborhoods, there’s a plan too: “Currently, 478 city schools burn No. 4 or No. 6 heating oil; many of these are in neighborhoods where the asthma rates are over three times higher than the national average. By 2017, the City will modify the boiler systems of 100 of these schools, to enable the boilers to burn a cleaner fuel. Schools located in neighborhoods with the highest asthma hospitalization rates—generally rates greater than seven per 1000—will be prioritized in order to achieve the maximum local benefits (129).”
It’ll take a short while though, so crack the window a bit more than what might seem comfortable if you happen to live in one of the stricken, yet blessed to be chosen, areas in the neighborhoods of Bronx, Harlem, Central Brooklyn and along Jamaica Bay.
In the meantime, bring those carbon-eaters to you. You can request a tree be planted in the sidewalks surrounding your school building and because of the milliontreesnyc campaign, some dudes very well might arrive with thirsty, greenish creatures come spring (117).
Even yummier, of course, would be if NYC schools would recycle all of their paper. That way we could save a whopping four million trees by the time NYC puts down its millionth. Nothing like loving the world like your own backyard.
If you’re into a meatier bite—or let’s just say you like a bit more texture—why not try and beef up the Plan when it’s up for revision in about four years. It could use more waste management to round out the palate. Or, you could ask for exactly what you’d like on your school plate right now, “Daddy Bloomberg, can I have a little more school recycling with that?”
Listen, don’t take our word for it. Gorge yourself on the entire document. Please. Because then we’re sure you’ll want more.
The New York City Department of Education has posted a description on their website of what they are calling their first green school. NYC enacted its new law in January 2007 mandating minimum sustainable design levels for municipal agencies taking on construction projects. Apparently, NYC Green Schools got an individualized grading system.
While the new law requires most City projects worth more than $2 million to achieve silver-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status, along with stringent energy and water conservation requirements, the legislation requires a lower level of sustainable design on projects handled by the Department of Education and its School Construction Authority division.
Here's the DOE's description of its first sustainable design school:
“We reduce, reuse and recycle,” a fourth grader, Jeremy Torres, said. “We use less electricity and the building is run by a computer.”
Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein unveiled the unique features of the school's design at a press conference last week. PS 59 is equipped with a computerized heating and cooling system that adjusts the indoor air temperature to conserve electricity. In addition, the school has large windows in the gymnasium to take advantage of natural daylight and cut down on the use of fluorescent lights. Metered faucets and dual flush toilets use 42% less water than traditional fixtures.
“The faucets shut off quickly so you don’t waste water,” a fourth grader William Delince, explained.
The building was formerly a nursing residence for Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital. PS 59 is using the building temporarily while its new school is being constructed elsewhere in the neighborhood. The building will eventually be home to a new 500-seat District 2 school.
Take part in America Recycles Day (have you taken the pledge?) by taking your school's obsolete electronics to one of the recycling stations citywide this Saturday and Sunday, November 15-16, from 8 AM to 2 PM.
Drop off unwanted computers, TVs, cell phones, radios, cameras, VCRs, and other electronics for free at any of the locations listed below. The Department of Education requires electronics to be recycled through a designated a vendor at a charge of $30 per item. Many electronics needlessly end up in dumpsters because schools feel this charge is too costly when supplies, such as copy paper, are scarce.
Join greeNYC, DSNY, CENYC, NBC Universal and Green Is Universal in taking this small, yet important step toward reducing the enormous amount of toxic e-waste sent to landfills (and let's hope they're not on their way to China).
Designated e-recycling stations are located in all five boroughs:
Saturday only: Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Plaza (W. 126th St. bet. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and Malcolm X Blvd.)
Sunday only: Cooper Square (Cooper Square bet. E. 6th and 7th Sts.)
Saturday and Sunday: Joyce Kilmer Park (Grand Concourse bet. E. 161st and 163rd Sts.)
Saturday and Sunday: McCarren Park (Bedford Ave. near N. 12th St.)
Saturday and Sunday: Staten Island Mall (2655 Richmond Ave. at Parking Lot F)
Saturday and Sunday: Cunningham Park (Union Turnpike bet. 196th Pl. and 197th St.)
Join the American Museum of Natural History for an educator's evening exploring the science, history, and impact of climate change on Thursday, October 23, 2008 from 4-7 p.m.
The Museum's new exhibit, Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future explores the science, history, and impact of climate change, and illuminates ways in which individuals, communities and nations can reduce their carbon footprints.
The exhibition provides a scientific context to help make sense of today's most urgent headlines on global warming. Activities include a catered reception, an introduction to the exhibition by curators and educators, curriculum materials and demonstrations, and resources to support field trips with students.
Register now by calling 212-769-5200 so we can see you there! If you can't make it, use their awesome online resources, download their educator's guide and schedule an outing. What a better way to motivate your school's recyclers?
The time has come for the Bronx River Alliance / GLOBE NY Metro's fall water quality monitoring training with Peter Schmidt. If you are interested in becoming an environmental steward, or if you have an interest in the Bronx River's water quality, spend a day learning the basics of becoming a citizen scientist. Students, teachers, community residents, and any other interested parties, are invited to participate. The agenda is full of hands-on learning:
Space is very limited. Contact Peter Schmidt, Associate Director of GLOBE NY Metro at (718) 997-4268 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Is the New York City school recycling bin half empty or half full?
Councilmember’s Bill DeBlasio’s office introduced a bill calling for recycling in NYC schools (purposefully redundant since it’s unpracticed city law) and legislation requiring the Department of Education provide schools with recycling bins in June 2008. Teachers from around NYC brought over 200 students to City Hall in support of the hearing around the bill and legislation. Education Tomorrow’s Micki Josi and her students spoke out at the rally. A sixth grade student explained how he’s been taking his school’s paper recycling home because he couldn’t stomach it being trashed.
During the hearing, council members drilled the Departments of Sanitation and Education about the lack of recycling in schools. Jeff Shears, Chief of Staff for the DOE’s Office of Finance and Administration, was told at one point that if he were working for council member and Education Chair Robert Jackson, he’d be fired. He couldn’t answer a simple question: who is responsible for recycling in schools?
According to the Chancellor’s Regulations on Waste Management, it’s the principal. Yet, the vast majority principals haven’t prioritized it enough to even initiate programs and some have discouraged teachers who have tried.
As the bill and legislation gestate before a vote, the DOS and DOE have been given time to demonstrate their commitment, which they’re doing. Not like a valiant boyfriend professing his undying love, but more like one that’s tripped up so many times he’s trying to get some footing with a sound effort or two.
During the hearing, Shears was asked to produce names of the 372 recycling coordinators he purported having. Now he should be able to produce one for each of NYC’s more than 2,000 public schools.
For the first time ever, principals were required to submit the name of their school’s recycling coordinator by September 17, 2008. The position is unpaid and therefore didn’t require posting. Principals handpicked coordinators and staff may not know who was chosen, or that this new required position even exists.
There’s new energy around recycling in some schools, but coordinators are wringing their hands because starting a recycling program in a school that’s never successfully recycled is no small task. And the DOE is providing no training, nor are they training custodians who have been frequently at odds with recycling programs. Tackling the job as a volunteer isn’t always appealing—in one school, no one would take the job so the principal submitted her name. How effective and sustainable will this approach be?
Appointed recycling coordinators were required to create a recycling plan or sign a pre-fabricated one and submit a confirmation of having put it “on file” at school by October 1, 2008. The DOE acted swiftly with early-in-the-year deadlines, but how useful will thrown-together or stock plans be? Don’t effective plans come out of planning and environmental or recycling committee meetings with school-wide input?
The names of school recycling coordinators and their plans aren’t made public, so what will the next step for accountability be? Are these laudable first steps toward realizing effective recycling programs in all schools, or is it a way for the DOE to say they’ve done their part now it’s up to schools to do the rest? Like procuring bins. Right now, the DOE won’t provide bins, saying trash cans should be labeled as recycling bins—a naïve response that assumes there are extra trash bins, and that while our lessons must be consistently clear and explicit, our new recycling campaign needn’t be.
Over the summer, Educating Tomorrow spoke with the DOE about the importance of forming an advisory board to be part of the Chancellor’s Regulations on Waste Management revision process. This would bring all key players, such as the DOS and DOE, and the teacher’s, principal’s, custodial engineer’s and cleaner’s unions together to establish interagency best management practices. Yet one day in September, the new regulations were up and school recycling coordinators weren’t even notified. Again, a missed opportunity for communication, collaboration and success.
We also noticed the DOE now has a page up about recycling, albeit spelled wrong. We’re not too concerned by the missing “c”, but we are concerned coordinators may not know it’s there and don’t know who to turn to for help. Apparently, the more visible DOS Golden Apple Awards has received so many phone calls from new coordinators they’ve had to hire additional help.
The DOE has hired additional help to work on recycling, although we’re uncertain how they were hired or repositioned, what the new employee structure is (who’s responsible for what), and how long-term their position is. For example, one title is Special Assistant to the Integrated Service Center.
There are changes being made. We could just say the trash bin is completely full—half with paper and half with non-recyclable trash. Many of us don’t have recycling bins, and if we did, they’d be full of paper, some misplaced trash, and the air of good doing.
We had great turnout at the press conference and hearing on recycling in NYC schools on Tuesday! Students, teachers and parents from MS 447, PS 19, Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, Brooklyn New School and PS/IS 298 attended, many of them wearing our "Be cool. Recycle at school!" t-shirts. The event was covered by NY1, and Metro Paper (see below).
Much of Mr. Shear's, Chief of Staff for the Dept. of Education's Office of Finance and Administration, testimony does not reflect the experience of teachers inside schools. We are very disturbed by the Department of Education's lack of understanding and attention to this important issue. Our Committee will be responding to Mr. Shear's testimony.
You might want to ask Mr. Shear if your school's recycling coordinator is included in their supposed list of 372. You can contact him at 212-374-0209.
You can read the testimony of the teacher, Coquille Houshour, who was invited to testify.
Please respond to the hearing by contacting your favorite media. We need to continue to bring attention to the bill and legislation and ensure they are passed.
Also, be sure to sign our petition. As soon as we get a substantial number of signatures, we'll present it to NYC councilmembers. As of today, 186 people have signed. We know more people care!
School Recycling Scores Low Grade - Metro Paper
CITY HALL. The city's 1,400-plus public schools generate roughly 50,000 tons of garbage annually, but only 10 percent of it is recycled, according to City Council man Bill de Blasio — despite a 1989 local law requiring the recycling of 25 percent of the city's average daily waste stream.
"We see recycling happen sometimes," De Blasio said. "It happens when there are teachers, parents and custodians willing to go out of their way." He said eco-conscious teachers have to rely on grants or donations for recycling bins.
He introduced a bill yesterday to require the Department of Sanitation supply every public and private school with a sufficient number of bins and storage containers for recyclables, plus signs to encourage participation and weekly pickups.
The bill was "not necessary," DSNY's Robert Lange said at a Council hearing yesterday. His department already provides such services and has been working with schools for 19 years on implementing recycling, such as by giving schools decals to label any receptacle for recycling, he said. "Whether a school successfully recycles is ultimately the responsibility of the school community."
Who holds schools accountable? That would be a school's "recycling coordinator," who develops an annual school recycling plan, coordinates with the principal and custodian and reports whether the school is meeting its targets, said Jeffrey Shear, of the Department of Education.
Only 372 schools have such a position. "The level of recycling is undisputedly higher at these schools," Shear said, adding that this summer, the DOE plans to do outreach to ensure schools have a designated recycling coordinator. "We have more work to do," Shear said.
AMY ZIMMER, email@example.com
Calling All NYC School Recycling Supporters!
City Hall wants to hear from us! And WE NEED YOUR HELP!
A Joint Committee hearing with the Dept. of Sanitation and the Dept. of Education on SCHOOL RECYCLING is set for TUESDAY, JUNE 3, 1 PM. at City Hall.
Council member Bill De Blasio will be holding a pre-hearing press conference on the steps of CITY HALL at 12:15 PM. He'll announce a bill calling for school recycling programs in all NYC schools. Plus, he'll introduce legislation to bring back dumpster recycling collection (exactly what we've been asking for)!
Join us in showing the NYC Council how much we care!
Bring your teachers, students, parents and signs! Yes, it's a school day, but a wonderful opportunity to learn about our City's decision-making process. Council members McMahon, Jackson & others, NRDC, the Custodian and Cleaner's Unions will be there too!
We'll have "Be cool. Recycle at school!" t-shirts if you want to order some—they're only $5 (less if you order for your entire class)!
After the rally, the hearing takes place from 1-4 PM. The public is invited to attend.
This is critical moment: be there! And forward this far and wide!
Tired of using your old recycling can as a garbage bin? Always wanted to house a few industrious worms that won't scoff at cafeteria cuisine? Why not dress up your school's asphalt in the shade of green?
Here's your chance to develop a micro eco-culture.
Ford and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition are providing up to $250,000 in eco-friendly improvements to one lucky school. Complete the registration form and answer the question, "Why does your school deserve an eco-friendly makeover?" in 250 words or less by May 18. You could help make your school a greener, straight-up more conscientious place to be.
It's worth a try. You'll never know the fruit of a seed until you plant it. (And sometimes that takes a little dinero.)