The GREEN TEAM is a joint program of the Center for EcoTechnology and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) that empowers students and teachers to help the environment through waste reduction, recycling, composting, energy conservation, and pollution prevention.

The GREEN TEAM recently released an instructional video on source separation in school cafeterias. Source separation is a system by which organic material and recyclables are collected separately from the trash. This system makes recycling and diverting organic waste easier, which makes it more likely to be done. Recyclable material is then recycled and made into new products, and organic matter is composted, used to feed animals, or turned into energy through anaerobic digestion.

Four Corners Elementary School in Greenfield, MA has been source separating since 2016 and Northfield Elementary School in Northfield, MA has been source separating in their cafeteria since the year 2000. Students at the schools learn how to separate materials from Amy Donovan, Program Director at Franklin County Solid Waste Management District. When starting a compost program at a school, Donovan gives all-school presentations, and then gives students reminder announcements in lunches. A third grade student from Northfield Elementary School explained the process, saying “You pick up your tray and put all the things in the right bins and put your food in the compost.”

Successful programs require the support of the school community. Bharati Winston is a second-grade teacher at Four Corners Elementary School, and also helps train staff on their source separation program. At the start of each school year, she teaches new staff about the program and provides a refresher training to returning staff. Peter Blake is Northfield Elementary School’s custodian, and he initiated the school’s separation program 17 years ago. Since then, source separation has helped the school divert hundreds of tons of waste from landfills. Peter says the program’s success has benefited from its simplicity: “You can teach kids how to do it. Even my kindergarteners can do it. Anyone can do it.”

In Massachusetts, food waste is the largest material in our trash. Diverting wasted food provides educational, environmental, and social benefits to students, teachers, and communities. Source separation programs in school cafeterias keeps food out of landfills, reduces emissions of methane, and helps conserve natural resources.

The GREEN TEAM can help your school begin or improve a recycling or composting program by offering free lesson plans and student activity ideas, equipment, and technical assistance. For more information about the GREEN TEAM, email or
call (413) 586-7350 ext 225.

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