Join our first meeting of the School Year on August 29

Are you looking for a way to make your child’s school healthier and more sustainable? Healthier lunches? Recycling? Come add your voice to the GN Schools Connections group on Thursday, August 29 from 3:45-5pm in the third-floor arc area of the Newton Free Library (330 Homer St., Newton).

Green Newton’s Schools Connections group provides a forum for parents, students, and educators to promote sustainability in the classroom and beyond. You are welcome to participate as we share experiences and ideas that support f green initiatives in our schools.

After our group reached out to the Newton School Committee about the need to improve recycling in Newton’s schools, the committee passed a new school recycling policy in the spring of 2019. In addition, our advocacy was instrumental in getting the city to consider environmental practices and waste reduction in schools when selecting a new food service vendor. Representatives of the group will also participate in discussions to improve food quality and sustainability in school cafeterias.

In June, we worked with city leaders to submit a state grant application to support the expansion of the school recycling program. We are also advocating for the city’s approval to set up textile recycling collection containers outside of each school building. For more information contact: [email protected] or visit schools.greennewton.org.

Back to School Tip: “Avoid School Supplies Laced with Toxic Chemicals”

Original post from EWG Children’s Health Initiative  – 

As the first day of school is fast approaching, a new study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group(USPIRG) found harmful chemicals in everyday school supplies that could be in your child’s classroom or backpack. Here’s what all parents should know about this new report:

Crayons – The study tested six brands of crayons for asbestos, the toxic building and insulation material that causes mesothelioma, a deadly cancer. One major brand, Playskool Crayons, had detectable levels of asbestos. These findings are consistent with EWG Action Fund’s 2015 report that found traces of asbestos in crayons and other children’s toys sold nationwide.

Markers – USPIRG tested a number of markers for toxic volatile solvents such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which are petroleum substances also found in fracking wastewater.  EXPO scented and The Board Dudes dry erase markers had detectable levels of these harmful chemicals.

Binders – Three binder brands were tested for phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals that have links to early puberty in girls and harm to the reproductive system. The brand that tested positive for phthalates was Jot 1-inch 3-ring binders, which are sold at Dollar Tree. In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned six phthalates in children’s toys, and in bottles, cups and pacifiers for children 3 years old and under, yet these chemicals are still found in products children use on an everyday basis.

Water Bottles – USPIRG also highlighted two water bottles that tested positive for lead and were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The two bottles in question were Base Brands Children’s Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle sold on Amazon and at Costco and the GSI Outdoors Kids’ insulated water bottles sold at L.L. Bean. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs children’s intellectual development and alters their behavior and ability to concentrate. As the lead crisis in America rages on, we recently learned that testing for lead in the water of both primary schools and day care centers is woefully lacking.

Stay tuned to the EWG Children’s Health Initiative site for the latest breaking news and analysis on all things regarding kids’ health.

By Robert Coleman, Project Manager EWG (August 28, 2018).

Bigelow Middle School Grade 8 Environmental Journalism Project

Science teachers, Ms. Hoffman and Ms. Giguere, designed the project for their students to experience investigating and reporting on a local environmental issue.

The website created last June is a showcase for the news stories created by the Bigelow Middle School class of 2019 for an 8th grade environmental journalism project.
As you visit the website you will read the results of their students’ hard work.

Click here to learn more about the project and the process.
Click here to view the students’ environmental news stories.

WBUR’s Barbara Moran spoke to 8th graders about her path to becoming an environmental journalist.

Deanna Hoffman is part of School Connections and she invited some School Connections members, including Marcia Cooper and Andy Gluck, to give interviews to students.

Back to School Tip: “REUSE School Supplies and Shop Eco-Friendly!”

Original post from Green Newton – 

Preparing for the new school year presents a great opportunity for kids (and parents) to learn environmental lessons. During summer vacation, set aside school supplies that can be reused come September, including notebooks with blank pages, pens and pencils, and paper that was used only on one side (use the other side for scrap paper). Also, clean and repair backpacks for future use, and try to reuse or recycle electronic devices.

Before you shop, make a list of what you already have for the school year and buy only what you need, and in the store, choose paper, pens. and pencils with recycled content. Look for nontoxic products that aren’t sold with a lot of packaging, and explore ways to reuse the product packaging. Resale shops such as Goodwill now have office and school supply sections. Try organizing a school supply swap with local families. It could be the start of a fun annual tradition!

Our Neighbors: “Curbside Clothes Recycling a Hit in Rhode Island”

Original post from ecoRI News – 

A new service for recycling clothes makes it easier to declutter and curtail waste headed to the landfill. Simple Recycling, based in Solon, Ohio, offers a unique curbside pickup service for unwanted clothing — and a bunch of other items that can’t go in recycling bins — while keeping fears of hoarding at bay.

Groups such as The Salvation Army and Big Brothers Big Sisters have drop-off bins and offer pickup of used clothes, but Simple Recycling makes it a bit less complicated by collecting on the same day and in the same spot on the curb as your regular recycling. Once it partners with a community, the company encourages participation by mailing colored collection bags to all residences. New bags are delivered each time full ones are collected.

The service is free and the host community receives a nominal monthly payments based on the tonnage collected. Simple Recycling started in 2014 and now operates in nine states. Nine communities in Connecticut and 37 in Massachusetts offer the service to their residents. Within the past year, four Rhode Island Island communities — Bristol, Coventry, Middletown, and North Providence — joined the service, and they all seem pleased.

“It’s working out awesome. Our residents absolutely love it,” said Jackie Anthony, recycling coordinator in Coventry.

The only glitches, so far, have been complaints from some nonprofits that fear the service will reduce their share of revenue from collecting and selling clothes. Simple Recycling, a for-profit company, says no cities or towns have curtailed the service over the concern. The company encourages residents to donate their unwanted clothes to charities. Simple Recycling says it offers the convenience of regular curbside service, especially for the elderly and people with mobility issues.

“We’re not trying to hurt anybody. It’s an option, that’s all it is,” said Robert Nascimento, recycling coordinator for North Providence.

Anthony said nonprofits that manage collection bins across town reported no change in the volume of material since the Simple Recycling service started in April.

A small number of collection bags containing clothes have been stolen from the curb in North Providence since the program began in June, but the thefts haven’t hindered the service. Residents in Middletown are pleased with the program since collection began last December, according to Will Cronin, the town’s recycling coordinator.

“Stuff is being diverted (from the waste stream) and that’s the name of the game,” Cronin said.

Like other textile recycling services and owners of drop-off boxes, Simple Recycling’s only role in the recycling process is shipping what it collects to sorting facilities. The company is compensated based on the weight of clothing it collects.

The sorting facilities, often operated by thrift stores, decide what items go to their stores, which is about 20 percent of what they receive from the collectors. The remainder is sent to textiles exporters that ship between 50 percent and 60 percent overseas. The rest is downcycled either domestically or internationally, where it is then processed into raw material for items such as carpet padding and insulation.

Sonny Wilkins, vice president of municipal relations for Simple Recycling, said municipalities receive $20 or $40 per ton based on the type of mapping employed for the collection service. The revenue paid by sorting facilities allows Simple Recycling to offer the service without a fee.

“The way we are able to do that is to liquidate as early as possible,” Wilkins said.

There is no shortage of volume. Since 1960, textile waste has increased 811 percent, and only 15 percent is recycled or donated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The apparel industry is driving up clothing sales with the trend toward cheap, disposable, and “fast-casual” products. The industry generates pollution and requires significant amounts of energy and resources to manufacture and ship.

“Most of the world’s textile factories are in developing countries where governments can’t keep pace with the industry’s massive pollution footprint,” according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Donating unwanted clothes helps the environment, as does closing the life-cycle loop by shopping for secondhand clothes and other used goods. Repairing clothes yourself or sending them to the tailor for alterations extends their usefulness and keeps money working close to home where it helps the local economy.

“The whole purpose of the idea to keep textiles out of the landfill,” Nascimento said.

Here are some clothing waste stats:

  •  Textile mills generate one-fifth of the world’s industrial water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, to make clothes, according to the NRCD.
  • Textiles account for 5.5 percent of waste in the Central Landfill in Rhode Island, according to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.
  • 85 percent of all clothing ends up in landfills or is incinerated, according to the EPA.

by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff, 08/11/19

School Supply Drive for The Second Step

The Second Step is a community of survivors, advocates, and volunteers who foster the safety, stability, and well-being of those who have experienced domestic violence.

You can help students of survivors of domestic abuse by donating gently-used school supplies in good condition at a donation drop-off box in the rotunda at Newton City Hall (1000 Commonwealth Ave., Newton). Sturdy backpacks are a critical need.

10 tips for a successful Green Team

Original post from the Harvard Office for Sustainability – 

We asked members of our Green Team Leaders Network for their tips, advice, and tricks on running successful Green Teams. Here’s the top 10. Use these tips to help kick start a Green Team in your office, lab, or School.

1. Start Small

“Get together a small group and agree on achievable goals. The sense of accomplishment from reaching these goals will generate lots of momentum.”  –Claire Reardon, FAS Center for Systems Biology

2. Hold Regular Meetings

“Make sure to hold Green Team meetings on a regular basis (quarterly works best for our group). Hosting year-end and year-beginning celebrations is a good way to set “green goals” and a great time to check-in to make sure you’re meeting them/reporting progress to date. Celebrate both fiscal year-end and beginnings as well as calendar year-end and beginnings. That way you can involve your greater community in the updates, not just your Green Team.” –Kim Salley, Alumni Affairs and Development Green Team

3. Breakdown Borders

“Feel free to work on issues across departments, divisions, schools, and campuses. It can spread out the work load, encourage collaboration and learning, and is a fun way to meet people who are doing something similar or completely different from you.” –David Havelick, Harvard Longwood Campus EcoOpportunity Team

4. Involve Building Services

“If you don’t have them involved already, do whatever you can to get your Building Services leadership on board. Infrastructural projects that may never be seen by the public are the backbone of legitimate efforts. They allow for a more nuanced pitch to non-engaged citizens. Building Services can be instrumental in project approval/support, data collection and monitoring, as well as instituting wholesale changes that force behavioral change by occupants.” – John Aslanian, Graduate School of Design Green Team

Partnerships don’t stop at building services! Fostering strategic relationships and partnerships with departments across your School allows for broader communication and involvement in sustainability efforts. For example, as a result of partnering with Human Resources, many Schools have incorporated sustainability into their new hire orientations. 

5. Create Campaign Calendars

“Come up with a 12 month campaign schedule to focus on different sustainability topics each month. For example the Green Team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Business School dedicate March activities to water awareness and October to energy. This promotes sub-committee groups spurring off to spearhead specific activities related to the monthly themes.” –Allison Webster, Senior Sustainability Coordinator, Harvard Business School and Harvard Graduate School of Education

6. Encourage Project Ownership

“Brainstorm about priorities and interests and create subcommittees to work on certain projects and issues that are the most doable and the most popular among Green Team members.” –Harvard Longwood Campus EcoOpportunity Team

“One of things we have at Harvard Law School are subcommittees that are involved in their own projects. For example, I run the Waste Reduction subcommittee, and we also have committees for outreach and events.” –Carrie Ayers, Harvard Law School Green Team

7. Make it Fun

“Don’t take yourselves too seriously! Even though sustainability work addresses very serious concerns, you’ll get more active participation if you lighten the mood. The EcoOpportunity team is always trying to make the Longwood community laugh a little by putting cartoons, memes, and jokes in the stairwells during the Take the Stairs campaign, hanging an irreverent newsletter in the bathroom stalls, and holding a trivia night and the occasional happy hour.” –Caitlin Key Alfaro, Harvard School of Public Health

8. Communicate

“Create a newsletter, blog, Facebook page, etc. to get the word out about your events, resources and how people can get involved! The EcoOpportunity team sends out a monthly email newsletter, nicknamed the “EcoMosquitio,” that also hangs in bathroom stalls to spread the word about sustainability around campus.” –Katrina Rudnicki, Harvard Longwood Campus EcoOpportunity Team

9. Create Satellite Teams

“If your School has offices in buildings that are somewhat far away from the main parts of the campus, satellite green teams will help keep momentum going. The Longwood Campus EcoOpportunity Team has created satellite green teams at Smith Street, Tremont Street, and Landmark Center for their Campus.” –Jen Doleva Bowser, Harvard Longwood Campus EcoOpportunity Team

10. Show Appreciation

“ALWAYS recognize and show appreciation for your Green Team volunteers and members! We’ve connected with the School’s Human Resources department to create certificates for green team membership to go in each participant’s file and we encourage Green Team members to talk with their supervisor about their Green Team work so everyone is on the same page and recognizes their contribution and volunteer work.” Harvard Longwood Campus EcoOpportunity Team

Organics Collection Pilot in Newton Schools

Original post from Green Cart Chronicle Summer 2019 Edition – 

In January 2019, organics collection was launched in the cafeteria of two Newton schools, Angier Elementary School and Zervas Elementary School. Each lunch period, students sort their waste into three categories of waste: trash, recycling, and organics. Organic material includes food waste, napkins, and other compostable material.

The organic material is hauled from the schools by a vendor to Charlestown, MA. The Charlestown facility turns the food waste into a slurry that is then anaerobically digested at a wastewater treatment facility. Anaerobic digestion is a process through which the organic material mass is reduced, producing methane gas, which is then used to generate energy. Solids remaining after anaerobic digestion are composted. DPW is working with NPS to add organics diversion in up to 12 more schools in the 2019-2020 school year.

ANAEROBIC DIGESTION VS COMPOSTING

Composting is a natural degradation process. The breakdown of organic matter occurs over time from exposure to oxygen, moisture, and naturally occurring bacteria. The result of the process is a humus material called compost.

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, producing carbon dioxide and methane gas. The process is used for industrial or domestic purposes to reduce waste solids and produce renewable fuel that can be captured and used, offsetting the use of fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The remaining solids are then composted.

Tip of the Week: Reduce and Reuse Your School Supplies

-Original post from Green Newton

The Bigelow PTO has suggested great ideas for families to reduce school shopping lists during the summer by keeping items from this school year that are still in good condition. This can save money, will reduce waste and it can be a great opportunity to embrace our sustainable values for students. There’s a reason reduce & reuse come before recycle– not just because it sounds good, but it’s the order in which we should approach sustainability.

After the school year is over, take the following steps:

  • Empty backpacks, pencil cases, binders, folders.
  • Clean everything (a swipe of rubbing alcohol can remove marker and make things look like new).
  • Organize pens, pencils, markers, scissors, calculators, etc.
  • Take out the used pages of notebooks and evaluate if the notebook can be reused in school or at home.

When the school supply list arrives during the summer, compare the list with what you have organized and cleaned. You might find out that there’s very little to buy!

Sustainable Back-to-School Supplies at Bigelow