From February to June 2012, PS 166 was one of eight District 3 schools participating in a pioneering composting pilot program that diverted 450 pounds of food waste from landfill and reduced the volume of cafeteria garbage by 85%. The program is ongoing. The City of New York used the District 3 model and expanded the pilot to 60+ DOE schools in September 2012.
Cafeteria Composting Pilot
On February 27, 2012, PS 166 launched a food waste and bagasse lunch tray cafeteria composting program that diverted an average of 100 pounds of food waste from landfill daily, and reduced the volume of cafeteria garbage by 85%! The pilot resumed on September 6, 2012. PS 166 has gone from using 12 garbage bags a day – for breakfast and lunch – to just 1. (In 2012, the program also included the YMCA supper service). Read all about it on NPR, Earth 911, Biocycle Magazine, Waste & Recycling News, and Inside Schools!
Mayor Bloomberg Mentions Parents Who Started Pilot in 2013 State of the City Address!
The original pilot was a collaboration with seven other District 3 schools (PS 199, The William O’Shea campus (W. 77th, housing The Anderson School (PS 334), The Computer School (MS245), PS 452), and the Joan of Arc campus (W. 93rd, housing Manhattan School for Children (PS 333), MS 256 and MS 258). Donated composting collection services were secured, for the duration of the pilot, by composting consultant Laura Rosenshine from the private waste hauler IESI – a Progressive Waste Solutions company. Rosenshine also provided each school with four 64-gallon Toters, compostable liner bags, signage, and digital scales for the collection of important data. Aside from training the children on proper source separation procedures, the Green/Wellness Committee weighed the cafeteria compost, garbage, recycling, and captured liquid for one full week each month, to collect metrics about how much waste – by weight and volume – we were diverting weekly from landfill or incineration.
The children learned how to source-separate their waste and adapted to the new cafeteria composting station very well! Our kitchen staff collected their food scraps for the bins; our custodial staff collaborated beautifully; and our teaching assistants and school staff helped the children source separate their waste daily. The children were also monitoring the composting station, making sure everything went in the right bin.The City used our District 3 pilot as a model to expand composting to 67 DOE schools and 20 institutions, beginning in September 2012! Composting in schools is slated to go citywide in January 2014, and it all started here! In his 2013 State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg referred to the citywide expansion and gave a shout out to “the parents” [in District 3] who helped get school composting off the ground.
PS 166 Wins Honorable Mention in 2012 Golden Apple Super Recyclers
In 2012, PS 166 won a $750 cash prize and Honorable Mention in the 2012 Golden Apple Super Recyclers category. The annual award is sponsored by the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY). It recognizes schools for completing educational projects on recycling, waste prevention, composting, and neighborhood beautification. DSNY’s press release states, “By implementing a variety of waste reduction and recycling programs for items including food, bottle caps, electronics, and textiles, PS 166 taught students and their families that nearly everything people eat, use, and wear can be recycled or repurposed. The school’s waste reduction efforts inspired a cultural shift towards greater environmental awareness and responsibility that spread to family members and the surrounding community.”
PS 166 is a “No-Idling Zone”
In 2009, PS 166 joined 94 other New York City schools in the five boroughs to become a No-Idling Zone. Children learned about the health hazards of smog from idling vehicles, performed an air quality survey, and participated in a No-Idling poster contest. In November 2011, the Department of Envronmental Protection installed a beautiful new No-Idling sign in front of our school. A “No-Smoking: Children’s Lungs at Work” sign, provided by Asthma-Free School Zone, is posted as well.
Bottle Cap Collection
Watch the trailer for Chris Jordan’s film, Midway: Message From the Gyre to learn why we were passionate about recycling bottle caps for several years, until the City’s rigid plastic recycling law made our collection obsolete in 2013. In 2012-2013, PS 166 started collaborating with Aveda to collect our bottle caps.
During the 2011-12 school year, PS 166 collaborated with recycled materials artist Alex Lockwood. Lockwood makes large interactive “shakers” out of bottle caps that make musical sounds when pulled. These sculptures have been exhibited on Governor’s Island.We were thrilled to be working with Alex in 2011-2012 to recover our bottle caps anddo our part to keep these insidious plastic objects from killing sea birds and other marine animals.
PS 166’s Bottle Cap Ferris Wheel Project 2010-11
During the 2010-11 school year, PS 166 began a collaboration with Lower East Side artist Rolando “Kappo” Politi. Politi makes art out of bottle caps, which would otherwise be thrown in the garbage, and have become an insidious source of ocean pollution. PS 166’s children collected thousands of bottle caps for Politi during the school year. On Tuesday, June 21st, 2011, the artist brought an amazing ferris wheel to school and displayed it in the PS 166 Reading Garden during recess (see photo above). Our children were mesmerized by the wheel – which has a real spinning mechanism – and had lots of questions about it.
In November 2011, PS 166 joined forces with PS 199 to collect old athletic shoes and LiveStrong Wrist bands for recycling by the NIke “Reuse A Shoe” program. Together, we collected 500 pairs of athletic shoes. PS 166 Green/Wellness Committee members shipped off 9 boxes of shoes to Nike the first week of December 2011. More information on how the sneakers are recycled can be found at http://www.nikereuseashoe.com.
PS 166’s Garden!
In May 2012, PS 166 children enjoyed their first Farm-to-Table harvest day. Lettuce was harvested from the school garden and eaten for lunch. The lettuce, and other bountiful produce (including carrots, fennel, chard, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, basil and other herbs) had been planted weeks prior by PS 166 Gardening Committee Chairs, Ceci Carmichael and Molly Pesce. Wellness in the Schools Chef mentor and PS 166 dad, Jonathan Waxman, led cooking demonstrations in the cafeteria to show children how to make a zesty citrus vinaigrette dressing to put on the salad. Everyone enjoyed tastings of the salad and dressing, and recipes were sent home!PS 166 3rd graders also enjoyed making salad dressing, their own herbal tea bags, and learning about pollinators with the Horticulture Society, which has been working with our school for several years (see below).In May 2011, PS 166’s 3rd graders began planting vegetables as part of a 7-week gardening program with the Horticultural Society of New York (HSNY). The children used new wooden box planters for the first time in the newly renovated Reading Garden which has been set up as an outdoor education space. The renovation was made possible by a generous grant from Council member Gale Brewer. In HSNY’s “Apple Seed” program, students learn both process and inquiry skills in preparation for the city-wide science tests. The curriculum focuses on the following content areas: environmental studies, lifecycle studies, plant function and anatomy, and outdoor garden studies. The children will use active observation and hands-on skills, both indoors and outdoors, to explore flowers, examine red wiggler worms, study trees and investigate the ecology of the urban environment with a view towards improving their own school environment. They germinate plants from seed, record weather findings, investigate leaves, conduct plant experiments, and maintain the school garden. They also release ladybugs, write nature poetry, and cook vegetables picked from the garden. Apple Seed students meet an HSNY garden educator once a week for a hands-on, 60 minute session. Each workshop incorporates science with gardening, artistic expression, non-fiction writing or reading a story pertaining to the weekly topic. The program also includes a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden!
Since 2009, PS 166 has held textile recycling drives for our school community several times a year. Wearable Collections comes and collects the materials free of charge. Thanks to Wearable Collections, PS 166 has diverted hundreds of pounds of textiles from landfill through this program.
PS 166 Green PTA Policy
On January 18, 2011, the PS 166 Green/Wellness Committee distributed a new PS 166 Green PTA Policy to all PS 166 staff. Through this Policy we hope to create a culture of environmental responsibility in our school and beyond. We will encourage parents, staff, and children to:
- Evaluate the environmental impact of every activity
- Eliminate toxins
- Practice waste reduction and recycling
- Support healthy eating and physical activity
- Implement environmental education whenever possible
As we strive to reach these goals, we take pride in the things our school has already done to move in this direction.
PS 166 Participates in the Green Cup Energy Conservation Challenge
In 2012, PS 166 reduced its energy use by 17.9% during the 2012 NYC Green Cup (energy conservation) Challenge (GCC), sponsored by the Green Schools Alliance. That was not enough to put us in the top 25 this year!! Other schools are working hard to save energy too, which is great news for the planet.
In 2011, PS 166 won 4th place and a $10,000 prize for reducing its electricity consumption by 23.3%. We saved $2,403 on our electricity bill in one month, and prevented 19,815 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the environment.
Collectively, the top 10 performing schools kept 327,003 pounds of CO2 out of the environment. Quite an achievement!
In 2010, during peak winter energy usage (January – February) PS 166 won 1st place in the NYC GCC with a 17.75% reduction in electricity consumption. The United Federation of Teachers magazine recognized PS 166 for its achievement.
Congratulations to PS 166’s “Climate Captains” who keep things in check, and all the students and staff who participate!
We will strive to keep saving energy all year long at PS 166. We hope you will too. Recent events in Japan have shown us that the energy we consume comes at a price, whether we are burning oil, natural gas, or using nuclear power. About 25% of NYC’s energy comes from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, just 35 miles North of Manhattan. It’s more important than ever that we educate our children about sustainability and support their enthusiasm to be responsible planetary stewards, both in school and at home.
Several other projects are underway to green our school. Check them out below!
Green projects that PS 166 has launched since 2001:
In November 2010, thanks to the generous support of the PTA, PS 166 replaced its polystyrene cafeteria trays with compostable trays made of bagasse (sugar cane). PS 166 is now one of 30+ schools in the City using an alternative to polystyrene trays. This is good news, not only because our school uses 64,800 trays annually. Polystyrene (aka styrofoam) – a petroleum byproduct – is the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste, doesn’t break down in the environment, and is a major source of ocean pollution. That may be why the Los Angeles School district banned styrofoam lunch trays in September 2012 and why 100 U.S. cities have already banned styrofoam. Parents can feel good knowing that their children will no longer be eating off it, since toxic styrene, which migrates from polystyrene, is likely a human carcinogen and leaches into hot foods and liquids. Being polystyrene-free is also in alignment with our mission of being a Green/Wellness School.
UPDATE: NO MORE STYROFOAM LUNCH TRAYS IN CITY SCHOOLS AS OF SEPTEMBER 2013!: According to sources within the DOE, starting in September 2013, styrofoam lunch trays will be replaced by a recyclable/compostable (paper or pulp) alternative citywide!!
- In November 2010, in partnership with E-Green Management, PS 166 launched an E-waste recycling program for small electronics. As of June 2012, the school recycled – and diverted from the landfill – almost 1,000 pounds of E-waste!
- In November 2010 PS 166 began a collaboration with local NYC artist Rolando “Kappo” Politi, who makes art pieces out of bottle caps. By June 2011, our school had collected ten 18 gallon bins full of unrecyclable caps that “Kappo” used to make a beautiful ferris wheel. These non-recyclable caps were diverted from the garbage, from where they eventually migrate into our oceans, polluting beaches and killing scores of sea birds, turtles, and whales. In 2011-12, PS 166 is collaborating with reuse artist Alex Lockwood.
- In the October 2010, in partnership with Wellness in the Schools (WITS) and mentored by PS 166 parent and celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman, PS 166 launched WITS’ “Cook for Kids” program, to provide fresher, healthier food choices in the school cafeteria. The program ties in to grade-specific field trips, and Spring composting and gardening activities. In 2011-12, WITS began offering “Labs” to all PS 166 students: cooking and nutrition education classes that will take place four times throughout the year.
- Since September 2009, PS 166’s Green/Wellness Committee has distributed green cleaners and microfiber cloths to every classroom in the school. CleanWell hand soap has been generously donated by our friends at Grassroots Environmental Education in Port Washington, NY, and cleaners are purchased at bulk discount prices. This is an ongoing program, supported through the generosity of the PTA.
- On Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 at 11am, PS 166 partnered with KidsGrowNY to plant flowers in the tree pits outside the school.
- On Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 in honor of Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, PS 166 hosted internationally renowned climate scientist (and Kindergarten parent) Marco Tedesco. Tedesco has studied melting trends in the Arctic, Antarctica and Greenland. His work has been cited internationally in the context of climate change, water resources management, weather forecasting and projections of sea level rise.
- On Saturday, April 9th, 2011 (and April 17th 2010), PS 166 participated in the Green Schools Alliance Spring Conference and Resource Fair, where Emily Fano accepted the NY Regional Green Cup Challenge awards on behalf of the school, and tabled with friends from the District 3 Green Schools group.
- On Thursday, April 14th, 2011 (and Friday, April 16th, 2010) PS 166 hosted a communal paper shredding/recycling event, in collaboration with EcoPlum and Code Shred. The event was attended by about a dozen PS 166 parents, staff, and friends who diverted lots of unwanted paper from the landfill! Read all about it here.
- In March 2010, PS 166 was declared the winner of the New York regional Green Cup Challenge, sponsored by the Green Schools Alliance. The Challenge, which took place from January 15th to February 12th 2010 – during peak winter energy use – helps schools to measure their energy usage and find ways to reduce it, while cutting greenhouse gas output, and saving money. PS 166 reduced its electricity consumption by 17.75%, saved $1,845 on its electricity bill (15,380 kilowatt hours), and prevented 20,609 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the environment! PS 166’s energy saving was equal to taking 2 cars off the road for one year, planting 10 trees, or replacing 374 incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Signs were posted throughout the school, reminding everyone to “turn off lights” and “power down computers.” Each classroom had “Climate Captains” who ensured that lights were turned off at lunch and recess, thermostats were set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and computer monitors were turned off when not in use.
You can read about PS 166’s participation in the Green Cup Challenge on the Sundance Channel, Planet Green, and Green Buildings NYC blogs!
- In 2001, the school obtained funding from city and state elected officials to create a Reading Garden that has been continually planted with flowers and shrubs. Since 2008, PS 166’s Gardening Committee has worked to beautify the school’s outdoor spaces by cleaning up tree pits along the block and planting flowers. In 2010, as part of a Kindergarten play yard renovation project in collaboration with Out2Play, Pre-K and K children got a composting bin, 3 rain barrels and 14 large cement planters that have been filled with beautiful trees, flowers, shrubs and edible herbs. Wooden benches form a quiet zone on the perimeter of the play yard. (We plan to start an outdoor composting program in 2010).
- Since 2005, with a curriculum provided by the Horticulture Society of New York, and thanks in part to the Greenacre Foundation, 3rd graders at PS 166 have participated in a horticulture program where they have experienced hands-on gardening and science activities, and taken field trips to New York City parks and botanical gardens. Students planted flowering annuals in the tree pits and took care of the trees. They released ladybugs to combat plant pests naturally. They also learned basic botany through exploration of edibles! They ate through sunflower seeds, broccoli flowers, celery stems, carrot roots, red cabbage leaves and snow pea fruits!
- First launched in 2005 as an afterschool program, all 4th graders at PS 166 now participate in a water resources study program funded by the Catskill Watershed Corporation. They travel upstate to the Catskill watershed to learn about the source of New York City’s drinking water. From 2006 to 2011, 3rd graders enjoyed a performance of The City That Drinks the Mountain Sky, by the Arm of the Sea Theater Company, a story about New York City’s water supply.
- Since June 2011, 2nd graders have traveled to Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY to learn about sustainable agriculture. Since 2005, 1st and 2nd graders at PS 166 have traveled to the Queens County Farm Museum to learn about life on a working farm. Other class trips take children apple and pumpkin picking in the Fall.
- Thanks to PS 166 teacher Mr. Huston, in 2008-2009, 5th graders learned about how recycling impacts our environment. Mr. Huston’s students went to other classes to discuss what can and cannot be recycled according to NYC guidelines. They worked for several weeks collecting recycled materials from the big blue bins on each floor. They redeemed can and bottle deposits and used that money to purchase items for the school, including new equipment for the gym and play yard. Mr. Huston and his students worked hard to keep recycling going in the classroom.
- In 2009, PS 166 science coordinator Garo Tekeyan took 4th graders to see the Climate Change exhibit at the Museum of Natural History.
- In the Fall of 2009, PS 166’s science teacher, Ms. Cardona, taught Kindergarteners all about trees, starting with the 5-foot palm tree in the science classroom. Every class will eventually plant its own evergreen tree in the schoolyard.
- On October 25th 2009, PS 166 hosted the “Big Green Halloween,” its first green fundraiser, featuring recycled crafts, local and organic foods, a composting demonstration, compost bins for food scraps, and green information booths. The school hosted “Big Green Extreme Halloween” in October 2010 and will strive to make all school-wide events as green as possible.
Environmental books for children:
Send your suggestions for this list to Emily Fano
- 50 Simple Things Kids Can do to Save the Earth
- Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming, by Laurie David
- The Lorax by Dr Seuss
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono
- My Mom Hugs Trees by Robyn Ringgold