S.S. Seward goes greener with new lunch trays, water stations, stepped-up recycling

S.S. Seward Institute is getting a little greener every day, and this year students have cut cafeteria waste, stepped up recycling, and are well on their way to earning a Green Star for the school.
Over the past year, the Seward Building Leadership Team (BLT) has worked together to bring a Go Green initiative to life at the school, said Seward Principal Michael Rheaume, and recently implemented strategies have already reduced waste within the Florida Union Free School District.”

A female high school student on the cafeteria lunch line holding a blue, reuasble lunch tray
New reusable lunch trays have been introduced to Florida’s cafeterias. The new trays reduce waste and are making the schools greener.

The BLT, with the leadership of Mrs. Kristine Vogt, parent member, partnered with the Orange County Recycling Office and its Green Star School program, and last school year Orange County Recycling Coordinator Ermin Siljkovic presented information to Seward’s sixth graders. A plan of action to decrease waste and increase recycling was then developed, Mr. Rheaume said. Schools that excel at their green initiatives earn the coveted Green Star.
At Seward, students first focused on plastic water bottles and increased the number of plastic bottle recycling containers in the building. Students created posters to bring attention to the bins and soon, plastic bottles stopped getting tossed in trash and landed in the recycling bins instead. To reduce the use of plastic bottles further, the BLT purchased four water bottle filling stations for the school. Students and staff alike have since enjoyed cold, filtered water, using their own reusable bottles to further reduce waste.
The BLT then turned its focus to the cafeteria and looked for ways to reduce waste. For years the cafeteria served meals on disposable Styrofoam trays, which ended up in the trash after a single use. Switching to reusable trays would not only cut waste but would also save money by eliminating the recurring cost of Styrofoam trays and the expense of having used trays – now garbage – collected and hauled away, the BLT found.
With the generous support of community-based partners Walden Savings Bank and the S. S. Seward Alumni Association, Spartan blue reusable trays were purchased for use at both Seward and Golden Hill Elementary School.
The cafeterias made the switch in January, and the reduction in waste has already been dramatic.
“The environment is so very important to our students,” Mr. Rheaume said. “They actually cheered the first day the new blue trays were used.”
Next steps for the Green Star School include the recycling of milk cartons and increasing recycling of paper products. A school garden is also being considered. Students have also been urged to recycle at home, and to
encourage the greater community to embrace recycling as well.
“When a collective idea gains support and momentum, it is amazing what can be done,” said Mr. Rheaume.

A special thank you

The Seward BLT would like to thank Ermin Siljkovic; Tom Andryshak, the Director of Buildings and Grounds; Mrs. Kristine Vogt; Tom Beattie, Board of Education member and BLT liaison at Seward; Brianna Milz, our cafeteria and school staff, and our students for their support. Look for updates in the coming months as Seward continues on its path to becoming a Green Star School.