Oakland Local: OakTown Gardens: Reducing waste to 'green' Lincoln Elementary

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OakTown Gardens: Reducing waste to 'green' Lincoln Elementary

October 30, 2012
By Irene Florez

This year, Lincoln Elementary did something few schools would have dreamt of 10 years ago: It formalized a green connection with Waste Management to exchange food scraps for compost.

Lincoln and roughly 50 other Oakland schools are now taking part in “Green Gloves,” a collaborative effort to reduce and sort the waste leaving OUSD during meal times.

The aim, says Nancy Deming, OUSD’s Sustainability Program Initiatives Manager, is "to have a program that the school and its students are directly involved in that provides a much more meaningful environmental impact."

According to Deming, the main impetus at Lincoln Elementary was Lana Cheung, Lincoln’s head custodian.

With more than 600 students and two meals served every day, Lincoln used to send 12 cubic yards of trash to the landfill every week. These days they have reduced that by 33 percent. Most of this reduction was through incorporating compostable trays and sorting trash after meals.

Cindy Seh, Lincoln’s head night custodian stands in for Cheung during sick days and vacations. She says though the green change requires more work for custodians, it’s a change for the better.

“It’s good to teach kids to save the earth,” she says. “Stressing the importance of keeping clean and recycling is good for raising responsible children.”

Seh’s children attended Lincoln. Both are now at American Indian Public Charter School.

Annie Liu, a 7-year-old in Chou’s class, says that the process is easy.

“You just separate and stack,” Annie says, while munching on the pretzels that accompanied her chicken soft tacos and trading her classmates milk for carrots.

All told, Lincoln Elementary’s 20 minute per child lunch period results in three and a half hours of lunch related work for custodians. In the end, 8-cubic yards ends at the trash every week and the school receives compost once a year. In total, WMEarthcare is committed to providing OUSD Green Gloves schools at least 100-cubic yards of compost per year.

So far the compost is used in the school’s playground kale garden and in Cheung’s flower garden located at the front of the school.

“Unfortunately our school isn’t located in a green open space,” says Lincoln’s principal. “So, with composting and gardening we can each do a little to bring attention to our environmental connection.”

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