Younger Generations Are More Conscious

By June 8, 2016
By: Natasha Naik


It seems each generation is more environment conscious than the last. Two middle school students in Lawrence, Kansas are inspiring big changes in their school district, and it all started in their own cafeteria.

South Middle School serves its meals on flat reusable trays which are accompanied by plastic containers holding each type of food. Considering the fact that each school meal typically has five components to it, this means thousands of these plastic containers are being added to landfills each year just from this one middle school, let alone the entire district which also uses the same serving method. The girls asked themselves, wouldn’t it be better for the environment to use reusable sectioned trays and serve food directly on them rather than placing plastic containers on a flat tray.

Students Amelia Vasquez and Lisa Yang saw a big problem with this, and worked towards making an active change. They chose to pursue this topic as a school project, both girls are in the gifted program at South. With the help of the gifted education facilitator, Ashely Beason-Manes, the girls asked questions to everyone from the cafeteria workers to parents to district board members. The girls did calculations to determine just how much money was being wasted using disposable containers, and how long it would take new sectioned trays to pay for themselves, which would be a year and a half. They even complained a petition with over 200 signatures and presented it to the board.

compostable tray & reusable-tray

The next board meeting is June 13, the plan will be reviewed at that time. Amelia and Lisa say the primary goals of this project were to inspire change and also to educate their public. Regardless of the outcome, these girls should be proud of their hard work and how many people they were able to reach.

Lawrence is one of many school districts across the country that serves food on reusable trays. Though these trays are obviously a much better alternative environmentally to styrofoam or in this case plastic containers, are they really the best option overall? Washing these trays uses copious amounts of water, labor and soap. Purchasing non-toxic soap is also an area where issues can come up. If the students plan is accepted, food will be placed directly on the trays, requiring a much high standard of cleaning as opposed to when containers were simply placed on them.

Many people overlook the option of biodegradable trays and the positive effects they come with. Not only would biodegradable trays eliminate the problem of waste that comes from plastic or styrofoam, it would also help conserve costs in regards to soap, water, labor and would eliminate the need for expensive washing machines. A little food for thought.

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