SDSS and Chartwell Dining Services staff continue on a sustainable path

SDSS students and Chartwell Dining Services staff are continuing efforts to stay on a sustainable path.

The start of the second semester presents the opportunity for fresh starts of all kinds and the Sustainability Club and Chartwell Dining Service are excited to extend waste management practices in the form of  re-usable cutlery and a centralized waste station for a one-stop spot to return cutlery, and sort waste into compost, recycling and waste.

A goal of Zoe Shave and Taylor Legge, Co-Leaders of SDSS’s Sustainability Club to reduce waste from the cafeteria has been realized thanks to the on-going efforts of Trish Miller and Diane Wey, Chartwell Dining Services staff, and communication by Jenn Tuff, of the SDSS Parent Council, who has been exploring opportunities with management of the food dining organization.

Many thanks go to contributions of stainless-steel cutlery, by community members and the Port Elgin Youth Spiritual group led by Niv Saberi. Arranged in steel containers, beneath an information sign and beside paper straws, the cutlery was rolled out last week. But it wasn’t a surprise to students as Miller had not only placed plastic cutlery away from casual grabbing several months ago.   Students receive the single-use throw-away cutlery when asked for, but she has also been informing students of the anticipated introduction of re-usable cutlery.  A bucket, with soapy water, sits on the waste station in the cafeteria and Miller has been very pleased with the return rate of the utensils.

Miller is a proponent of sustainability and hopes that the success of measures introduced to her Chartwell establishment will be adopted by other cafeterias – school and alike. Recognizing that “There is no such thing as ‘away’”, she had already made small but effective changes to packaging including: replacing plastic straws with paper (once the plastic was consumed); providing cookies on a recycled fibre napkin rather than a wax resistant bag; reducing the use of cellophane; replacing waxy fry trays with compostable fry cups.  Importantly, the cafeteria did not just make the substitutions without informing the high-school clientele and Miller sees creating awareness of the environmental issue of packaging as critical to food services and consumers alike.

Initially, there was some discord when it came to replacing waxy pizza cardboard containers with doubled napkins, but as Miller says, “Change is slow, but we adapt. We adjust. And new practices are adopted.”

With healthier food preparation comes more organic waste and that too is re-directed. For some time, kitchen scraps – sans meat products – were given to a former head custodian at SDSS, Duncan MacNeill, as chicken feed.  As MacNeill is not local, the organic waste is now being composted in SDSS’s green cones thanks to the work of the Developmental Learning Class that manages the five compost bins placed strategically throughout the school. In addition to the compost bins in the cafeteria and kitchens, they can be found in the main office where coffee grounds are the main form of waste; in the staff room and in the Foods room.

The Developmental Learning Class – SDSS’s Green Team, also gathers the recycling in the school, monitoring proper use of the bins and waste cans. Noting that there was a high degree of contamination of both, an announcement was made notifying students and staff of the importance of proper sorting. In particular, a request to refrain from putting liquid filled containers, unconsumed food, straws, hot beverage cups and food wrappers (both foil and plastic) in recycling. In addition, new signs to identify proper sorting were posted throughout the building. There has been noticeable improvement in waste sorting since!

Other environmental initiatives have also taken place, including a very successful “Give a SH!RT” campaign in the fall and, on, February 7th, the turning down of the thermostat 3 degrees Celcius along with announcements that encouraged reflection on individual contributions to climate change as part of WWF’s National Sweater Day. Going forward, a request to BWDSB Plant has been made for the reduction and increase of temperatures by 1 degree Celcius in the cooler and hotter seasons, respectively.

With November’s UN report that society has only a decade to seriously address greenhouse gas contributions, efforts will focus on energy management. After all, in 2030, SDSS Royals who are currently in attendance, will range in age from 24-29 by the end of the window in which we have to act. What will their world be like if we do take simple steps such as turning off lights and electronic equipment which are more meaningful than most realize.

A request has been submitted to BWDSB IT’s department to display a message that thanks users for turning off their monitors and tucking their chairs in, and construction this summer will see occupancy sensors installed in many of the hallways, eliminating wasteful consumption of energy. Staying with the theme of energy, Earth Hour will be promoted and recognized on March 30th and an Earth Day assembly will focus on climate change and the role of human as the “Weather Makers.”

SDSS’s Sustainability Club (formerly the Planeteers) have had a long history of green initiatives at the school and the group is thrilled with the efforts of staff in our cafeteria as well as that of students and staff. With continued efforts in leadership, energy and waste minimization, school ground greening and ecological awareness throughout the curriculum of many disciplines,

Saugeen District is putting Albert Einstein’s principle into practice that …

                         “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”