NY Charter School Launches Sustainable Container Program

The charter school program aims to divert 216,000 single-use containers from landfills and reduce 23,689 kg of CO2 emissions.


Image Provided By School In The Square

School in the Square (S2), a NY Pre-K—8 charter school in Washington Heights and Inwood, implemented a Re:Dish reusable, sustainable container program for foodservice throughout the 2022-23 school year.

S2 will replace all single-use containers in its Upper Manhattan schools, including the middle school and the Dos Amigos elementary school, with durable and reusable wares. The program will divert 216,000 containers, or 16,286 lbs., from landfills and reduce 23,689 kg of CO2 emissions, which equates to removing 1,879 cars from the road for a day.

“The U.S. utilizes nearly a trillion pieces of disposable food service products each year, while single-use food containers and cutlery are the third-most common litter found in the ocean. We can easily address the environmental impact of single use if we embrace reuse beyond the traditional restaurant dining experience,” said Caroline Vanderlip, founder and CEO of Re:Dish. “By doing away with single-use and implementing this reusable dishware program, S2 is reducing waste generation, reinforcing sustainable behavior, and teaching students that they, too, can make a difference.”

To learn more about why S2 choose to implement this sustainable container program, Facility Executive spoke with Carrie Amon, Founding Principal…

Facility Executive: What inspired you to launch a reusable, sustainable container program for foodservice in your schools?

Amon: In the past, we collaborated closely with other organizations to put on events and have projects dedicated to sustainability, like having the students build a recycling museum. The children have always been inspired and excited by projects like these, which has sparked additional ideas for us to focus on. We are constantly looking for ways to make our sustainability efforts more effective, so when we learned about Re:Dish, we knew it was the ideal organization to help us in this endeavor. In order to make a difference and instill in our children the importance of reuse and protecting the environment early on, we wanted to begin this exciting partnership with them.

FE: Can you describe what the process has been like replacing all single-use containers in your Upper Manhattan schools?

Amon: The process has been very smooth, especially within the elementary school. It’s very easy to get young kids excited to try something new. Younger children are more adept at changing behavior, and our staff has done a great job of helping guide them along and making it fun for them.

It’s a bit more challenging to get middle schoolers to follow procedures and try new things, but with time they are catching on. They are interested in recycling, but sometimes need a little more motivation to take the next step. However, there’s already a lot of excitement about participating in the Re:Dish program. And as the school year progresses, we’re looking for ways to more clearly demonstrate to students the overall impact by showing them how much garbage we would’ve thrown away and how much of a difference the program is truly making. We already have significantly less garbage than in previous years!

FE: S2 has been searching for ways to reduce its carbon footprint and amplify its sustainability efforts. Are there any other initiatives you’re working toward to further these goals in addition to this program?

Amon: We, like many other schools, transitioned from paper copies to a digital/online platform that allows parents to be notified instantly about updates or forms to complete. To reduce the number of copies we make each day, we’re using an application called Parent Square. We are a dual language school, so everything is sent in both English and Spanish, which doubles the amount of paperwork you would need to use, making this application necessary. Two or three notices are sent home to parents each day in a typical school; however, by using this application, we have greatly decreased that number.

FE: What has the reaction to this new program been like from staff and students?

Amon: Overall, the process has been great; teachers and students are enthusiastic about participating in the program.

In addition to this partnership, our meal provider Butter Beans is also collaborating with Re:Dish to support our efforts by using Re:Dish containers for some of the prepackaged items we offer at the school. For schools like ours that have lunch catered in, everything is served in small containers. However, we are now putting everything in the compartmentalized Re:Dish trays, so we’re also saving other plastic products that we’ve previously used. This is truly a collaborative effort that we have brought to the table.

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