From: KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News
Published September 3, 2013 06:23 AM

Rhode Island school sets an example in waste reduction

Sophia Academy is an all-girls middle school on Branch Avenue with less than a hundred students. During the 2011-12 school year, the academy’s 62 girls sent 10,000 Styrofoam lunch trays to the landfill.


"We did some simple 'tray math' in class," said Alyssa Wood, science teacher at the school. Wood had her students multiply the 180-day school year by the 62 students enrolled at Sophia Academy, almost all of whom receive a free or reduced lunch. The students were amazed by the result, she said.

"Before we did the exercise I asked the students to guess how many trays the school was using each year," Wood said. "Most guessed much lower than the actual number."

Last summer, Wood began to consider transitioning Sophia Academy away from Styrofoam lunch trays to reusable plates. When she worked at the Lincoln School, Wood witnessed a lunchroom using reusable plates. The Lincoln School’s kitchen staff washed the plates, a luxury Wood knew Sophia Academy couldn’t afford. But with the small number of students at Sophia, Wood believed it made sense to try.

After a school-wide assembly last October related to waste-stream issues and Rhode Island’s ever-shrinking Central Landfill, Wood began to "plant the seed" in her students' heads about the waste generated by Styrofoam lunch trays.

A rotating, volunteer, two-person washing team scrubs the plates clean during their recess period. Credit Sophia Academy.

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