KENTVILLE, N.S. - Kings County Academy is one of the most recent schools to encourage families to go litterless for school lunches.
Principal Victoria Laurence says that as a school community, they wanted to look at the environmental footprint they were leaving and decided one thing they could do was have a positive impact on the amount of garbage generated.
The Kentville-based school has taken it one step further, removing the recycling bins from the cafeteria for, as Laurence notes, students were using those bins for garbage as well. Now, all litter and recyclables are returned home in the lunchboxes.
“We have noticed a significant change in the practices of our students and their families,” says Laurence. “Students are using reusable containers and the cafeteria is clean when they leave.”
The practice of going litterless for school lunches is nothing new to the Booker School in Port Williams. James Weekes, head of the school, says they have encouraged litterless lunches since their inception in 2012. The push for litterless lunches came from the students and one of their inquiries in the first years of school, he says.
“Students learn about local and global issues and how the decisions we make have an impact on complex systems,” explains Weekes. “We embed the UN's Global Goals for Sustainable Development into our curriculum.”
At the Booker School, Weekes says students often go on field trips to pick their own fruits and veggies and then freeze them for treats throughout the year. They would also like to establish a greater composting system to feed their gardens, he says.
The Booker School, as well as KCA and 22 other schools in the Annapolis Valley are a part of the Green Schools Nova Scotia initiative, a free program from Efficiency Nova Scotia. The program helps students, teachers, and the larger school community as they learn to become more energy efficient, and waste less, says program manager Olga Lucia Torres.
Green Schools promotes an activity called the Electric Lunch, where students investigate how much electricity plays a role in their food consumption, explains Torres.
“Through the activity, students question how much energy was used in some things like the packaging creation, transportation, conservation etc. and look to find alternatives to reduce their energy consumption.”
Some parents find it challenging to create litterless lunches. Jenny Osburn of Harbourville says it doesn’t take long, however, to readjust your thinking, and it’s cheaper in the end than buying individually packaged items. Her oldest and youngest children pack their lunches in little reusable containers, while her middle schooler gets lunch every day at Berwick School, where Osburn helps out with the salad bar.
Like KCA, Berwick School has also recently switched from paper plates and plastic forks to the real thing, so there is very little waste, says Osburn.
“I think this is important to parents, and it's easier to eat with a real fork, too” she notes.
Torres says other things that parents can do, besides having their children eat at the cafeteria, is to use a reusable lunch carrier and containers like Tupperware, Rubbermaid or Lockables. Be sure to send a reusable drink bottle or thermos, real cutlery and a cloth napkin that can be washed and reused. The Green Schools website also has a list of menu ideas and healthy snack options that are litterless.
As Weekes says, it is important for schools to model systems-thinking and responsible consumerism. Schools are community centres and are there to work with parents as well as students to keep learning about, and protecting, the world we live in. Schools can help young ones establish habits and routines for the rest of their lives.
“We must think about our actions and the policies we have in place and be ready to adapt them,” says Weekes. Schools have the power to start conversations and challenge societal habits that are now seen as detrimental to wider society.
Learn more by visiting: https://www.greenschoolsns.ca