April 27, 2010

Julia Smith’s First Grade Class

Julia Smith's 1st Grade Class plastic waste

Name: Julia Smith’s First Grade Class

Class of 21 first graders living in SF and one teacher. About 5 students each day eat a school lunch. We only collected the plastic that we were going to throw out at school.

Total items: 98

Total weight:

Items: Recyclable
3 lunchables (#7)
1 coffee cup lid (#6)
1 disposable coffee cup (compostable in SF)
2 yogurt containers (#5)
flavored water bottle (#1)
2 plastic boxes (#7)

Items: Nonrecyclable
chip bags
tape dispensers
glue stick
broken old playhouse clock
food containers from school lunch
drink boxes
zip lock and other plastic bags
granola bar and other individually packed bags
seran wrap
edamame bag
plastic bags to hold school lunch napkin, spork and straw
old stamp pad

What items can I replace with plastic free or less plastic?
As a class we have decided to use white glue rather than glue sticks whenever possible.

Some children thought they would ask their parents if they could use reusable containers for their snacks rather than zip lock bags.

We decided as a class that on days that we don’t need a utensil/spork for the school lunch that the children would do without a straw and just get a small piece of paper towel instead of taking the whole prepackaged utensil set that contains 3 pieces of plastic when they only need a napkin.

What items would I be willing to give up if a plastic free alternative doesn’t exist?
I have decided that on the days I forget my coffee cup I will do without coffee. That ought to teach me pretty quickly to bring my mug!

What Items are essential and do not have a plastic alternative?
Tape, glue (at least we can refill the glue bottles), sporks and plastic wrapping for food (especially those who rely on school lunch)

What lifestyle change(s) might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?
I think as a class we will be able to be more mindful of natural resources and I am hoping that once I teach my class to only take a utensil pack when they need it that we will be able to take our findings to the student council. I am also planning on having the class write letter to the head of food services asking them to provide the utensils separately to conserve resources.

What one plastic item am I willing to give up or replace this week?
glue sticks (at least for a week) and much more limited use in the future.

Are there any other conclusions I can draw?
This was a very interesting process. I am sure we did not get every piece of plastic that was used in the class but it still was an eye opening experience for me and my students. I am really excited about the changes that we are going to make in our small way in room 107. The images of the Pacific Garbage patch were shocking to me and to my first graders. Hopefully it will get us all to be more thoughtful about our use of plastic and all natural resources. I have to say I was pretty happy to see the number of zero waste lunches that were coming to school. That was pretty refreshing! Now if we can just change the school lunch packaging and the food that comes in them!

6 Responses to “Julia Smith’s First Grade Class”

  1. claire says:

    rather: “like you mentioned about health codes” since “Julia” is who the previous post was addressed to. (just to prove that I can actually read.) I’m lost without an edit button…

  2. claire says:

    I love this idea! my sister was telling me that one of her college classmates (she’s studying to become a teacher) made tie-dyed fabric napkins for each of the students in the classroom she works in (so each napkin was unique), both to reduce the classroom’s waste and give the kids a sense of responsibility. I think she periodically takes them home and washes them herself, but like Julia mentioned about health codes, I don’t know if the health department would be OK with that. you could always encourage the kids to bring their own fabric napkins if their parents allowed, same thing with the silverware if you can’t bring in a set or if the cafeteria won’t switch to steel.

    as far as tape dispensers go, I can’t tell from the picture but do you use reusable dispensers (even the disposable ones are reusable if you can find the right size refill) and just buy the rolls of tape? apparently magic tape comes on a paper roll if you get it with a 3″ core, but the tape is still made from PET (shiny tape is made from acetate). you could try cellulose/cellophane tape (made from wood) on paper rolls (I don’t know if you can get it without shrink-wrap), but it may not be perfectly clear and I don’t know how sticky it is. and there’s also masking tape if it doesn’t need to be clear. there may be polymers in the adhesives of all of these tapes as well.

    about the glue, is the issue with the packaging or the fact that the glue is a polymer itself? I’ve been trying to find glues that aren’t derived from petroleum, but I haven’t found any specific brands yet (as far as a water-based, white glue alternative is concerned). there are latex based glues, starch based, and animal based, but even EcoGlue doesn’t mention what it’s made from. I’ll keep looking though.

  3. Julia says:

    The challenge has really raised their awareness. This week the kids are writing letters to the head of food services. Many of them are asking for metal utensils. They all are telling food services to stop providing straws and to supply the utensils separately.

    Funny you should mention metal utensils. I was just thinking of having a class set. The only hitch I can see is the cafeteria is viewed as a restaurant and even gets a health inspection. I have a feeling if you are washing utensils they have to be heated to a certain temp. or sterilized. Checking into that is on my list of things to do.

    In the meantime – 3 of the last 5 meals did not require a fork so the kids did not take the utensil set which resulted in 63 pieces of plastic that went unused! Think of what that would mean at a school level.

  4. owlfan says:

    Neat idea and hopefully making the kids think more about their waste. I’ve had my kids bring home their ziplocks and plastic utensils for years (from their packed lunches) – I wash out and reuse (or in the case of baggies for pretzels or cookies, I use for about a week before I wash out). I had a bit of a hassle with the lunch ladies when they were K and 1st grade about not throwing out the spoons, baggies and once even the reusable plastic container!

  5. Maddie says:

    What a cool class project!

  6. Beth Terry says:

    I’m just so thrilled that your class took this challenge and that you are teaching kids about taking care of our planet, especially at such a young age.

    I love the idea of taking only what you need in terms of utensils and straws. I have an idea. How big is your class and how many kids eat school lunches? Would it be possible to keep and reuse utensils (washing them of course) instead of having them get new ones each time? Just a thought. Maybe if there aren’t too many kids, it wouldn’t be such a hassle.

    I love that the kids are trying to get the parents involved. Would love to find out what the parents think of the project and ideas for sending the kids to school with reusables instead of zip locks.

    There’s a very cool lunch box with compartments that’s made from stainless steel. It’s called Planet Box.


    Maybe a suggestion for parents who ask what alternatives are out there. There are others, of course. Lunchbots, for example. But if they want just one solution, Planet Box is awesome, although a bit pricy.
    .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Homemade Dairy-Free Chocolate Pudding (Plastic-Free too!) =-.