Wagner Ranch Green Team Gets Serious About Reducing Waste

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(Larissa Khosla, Photographer)
Wagner Ranch students and Green Team members Lucy McLoughlin (L) and Riya Kumar make sure food waste ends up in the compost bin, not in the landfill.

    More than 100 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Wagner Ranch Elementary have signed up to volunteer for the school’s Green Team, supervising a more efficient recycling and composting system.
    Since March, Green Team members have been helping other students sort waste into six buckets so that recyclables and landfill are separated from compostable food waste. 
    With the support of the food service provider Sodexo, and chefs Basil Friedman and Armando Huerte, the school has also ditched plastic disposable cutlery in favor of traditional, reusable metal cutlery. Fruit and vegetable food waste is composted on site. Overseen by garden aide Lilana Spindler, the food waste supplies the Wagner Ranch garden with quality fertilizer for its next crop of flowers and vegetables.
    Krista Mahlberg, Wagner’s hot lunch logistics coordinator, has been working with school custodians Sabu Akamal and Kevin Nguyen to change how the school deals with its waste. Mahlberg says the school is diverting around 230 pounds of food waste every month from the landfill.
    “It’s incredibly exciting to help the school make these really positive changes,” she says. “The kids instinctively understand why it’s important not to waste food, and to cut down on landfill waste too.”
    Akamal says the changes are making a real difference to the school’s waste disposal costs. “By changing from a 6-yard to 4-yard dumpster, Wagner is saving $530 every month. That’s $6,000 a year that we can put toward more important educational projects.”
    Wagner Ranch Principal Jim Manheimer says it has been a great example of the entire school pulling together and that progress has been significant.
    “Over the past few years, we have done away with disposable water bottles and straws. This year we established a Green Team, did away with plastic utensils, reduced food waste, and created large composting bins in our garden,” he says. “I am proud of our community for moving forward so quickly on this. Now we’re talking about what we could do next!”

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