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  • « Little girls are worrying about bras when they should still be playing with Play Dough. | Main | It's Time for BlogHer to be Green - Inside and Out. »

    Students Start Food Fight So They Can Have Re-usable Lunch Trays.

    Trays Kids are going green, and not just at home. A cadre of student activists at Piney Branch elementary school in Takoma Park, MD, are agitating to replace the throw-away polystyrene lunch trays used in their public school cafeteria with reusable, washable ones. They've raised over $10,000 towards the purchase of a dishwasher to clean the trays. Officials who oversee the school in Montgomery County, MD have thus far refused to allow the kids to even test out a reusable trays program, saying it is too expensive. But the kids are fighting on.

    Full disclosure: Both my kids attended Piney Branch, which is located near the Washington, D.C. border about three blocks from my house, and educates students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. But my son and daughter left long before more environmentally aware kids formed "The Young Activists Club" and launched their inspiring reusable tray campaign.

    The kids are concerned because the polystyrene in the trays is a "known neurotoxin and suspected human carcinogen," they say on their website.

    "But there's more," they say. "It turns out polystyrene has a high carbon footprint as it's made from fossil fuels. In addition, unlike other types of plastics such as beverage bottles (PET, #1) and milk jugs (HDPE, #2), its recycling level is virtually zero. It is not biodegradable, either. This means polystyrene that is littered will end up eventually in our watersheds and the world's oceans where it can have devastating impacts on water life.

    "Plus, the disposable polystyrene trays cost our school thousands of dollars a year. Based on 6 cases a week used, we calculated that the County spends $3,497 to supply Piney Branch Elementary with disposable trays and another $1,522 to provide the school with disposable plastic cutlery each year."

    The kids, who are advised by two parent volunteers, argue that it would be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment to use a safer alternative. "There are about two dozen communities that have banned in one way or another the use of polystyrene for food service ware. Yeah! We are not alone!"
    In addition to washable ware, which is the best environmental choice, eco-friendlier options include compostable paper trays. 
    The kids plan to appeal the County's decision and continue to agitate for reusable or more environmentally friendly lunch trays. Meanwhile, they've produced a YouTube video in which they perform the song they've written to explain their campaign. It's called, "Goodnight, Styrene," which they sing to the tune of "Goodnight, Irene." Take a look.
    Thumb_green Thumbs up, kids!



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    Irene Siverson

    Kids taking action really helps!! And works as if adults aren't taking action then they see others are taking action. One person at a time to take care of our planet. It won't ever be like it was in the beginning but we can be careful and only use what we need and be aware of what we are using and look for other things to use.

    Diane MacEachern

    Thanks, Irene. You're exactly right.


    Kuddo's to the kids, I hope they one day can accomplish great things to save our planet and our bodies that have for so long been abused. But my suggestion is this, our school lunches in public school are garbage! We as parents have a choice, don't let our children buy or eat them-if we make their lunches at home we have the control as to the chemicals they are exposed to and the quality of their food. My daughter goes to a montessori school and there is no hot lunch program, that means every child must bring there lunch from home. If we as parents stop buying the hot lunch at the public schools, than the cost to keep the program won't be there and as with all budget cuts I feel hot lunch should be cut before gym,art,music and things that actually benefit our kids, rather than harm them! Think about it parents-you have a choice!


    Great post-At least school kids are starting to understand -hope they stop feeding them junk in school-A healthy meal for goodness sake!

    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green

    Very cool!

    Clay Boggess

    It sounds like this makes sense for a multitude of reasons. Once you have paid for the one time expense of the reusable trays they will pay for themselves many times over. Come on adults, step up and be logical! This is a no-brainer.

    Lori @ Groovy Green Livin

    What a great idea! I am going to see how this fits in in our school system. I have to be honest-i have no idea what type of trays they are currently using. Certainly worth looking into!

    betz White

    We live in Montgomery Co. and our school uses the same hideous trays. I am so inspired by Piney Branch! I showed my 5th grader their video and he is anxious to bring it up to the other members of the school's green team. Thank you for sharing this!

    Diane MacEachern

    Great comments. Thanks, everyone! It's inspiring to see young people getting behind sustainability - but then, if you're their role models, we shouldn't be surprised.


    Love to hear an update on this. Recycling rates are mentioned - but don't be fooled. Americans are horrible at all types of recycling. Plastic bottles are recycled at a rate of 22% - meaning 78% is disposed of (140 million bottles a day). Kids are likely the solution. My company provides customized stainless steel bottles for school fundraising efforts - Check us out.

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