Bristol 5/6-grade students demonstrate conscience with no-waste Thanksgiving

BRISTOL — Thanksgiving lunch at Bristol Elementary School this year was the traditional meal it is every year: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, corn, rolls, pickles, cranberry sauce and good friends.
However, in one big way, the meal was quite different. The students in Ms. Murnane’s fifth- and sixth-grade class had a dream to make this annual event completely garbage free. With the help of Kristen Andrews, education coordinator for the ANESU Food Service Cooperative, and the BES kitchen staff, the students very nearly achieved that goal.
“Usually, this lunch makes more than five bags of garbage. Today we only had a third of a bag,” said sixth-grader Dawson Lamore.
“It might not have a huge global impact, but it was something we could do to help save the planet,” added fifth-grader Maddie Menzel.
Ms. Andrews has been working with the class since last year on the issues of ecology, conservation and waste reduction.
“Even biodegradable garbage that we throw away creates methane and doesn’t do any less harm to our planet. We need to compost more things,” says Olivia Heath, a sixth-grader.
With this in mind, the fifth- and sixth-graders put out a call to the whole school to bring in or donate plastic or ceramic plates, serving bowls and silverware that could be used, washed and reused instead of the usual paper and Styrofoam plates and bowls that would have gone into the trash. To accommodate the extra dishes that would need to be washed, the class formed teams of dishwashers so the kitchen staff would not be overwhelmed with extra work.
All of the food scraps were collected and taken to a local farm for composting. As well, all of the table and wall decorations were made from materials that were reusable, recyclable or compostable.
Lastly, the team made an attempt to cut and sew more than 300 cloth napkins — one for each and every lunch guest. Unfortunately, there was not enough time. Instead, the napkins were used as decorative placemats. The paper napkins that were actually used in their place, however, were all collected, separated, and used for composting.
“Too much food waste goes into the landfill,” Mason West, a sixth-grader, observed. “I think it’s something like 30 percent of all food waste goes into our landfills.”
His friend, fellow sixth-grader Jordan Fritz, added, “And it’s even higher in elementary schools like this. And all that food turns into methane and pollutes the air.”
“Serving the food like this is a little more work, but it’s so worth it!” exclaimed sixth-grader Hannah Carpenter.
The plates of hot turkey, gravy and stuffing were brought out from the kitchen and served to everyone by adult parent volunteers. The kids of Team Murnane — as they like to be called — did everything else. They loaded and filled the condiment bowls for each of the three lunch seatings. They brought out the serving bowls of corn and mashed potatoes served at each table “family style.” They cleaned and bused all the tables after each seating and helped the kitchen staff with the cleanup when it was all over.
“It was exhausting, but I’m really happy we could do something for planet Earth,” says sixth-grader Evan Laurent.
Kristen Andrews, who led the kids in the effort, says, “What a pleasure and privilege to work with a group of devoted Earth stewards.”
“I’m just glad we have a teacher like Ms. Murnane,” replied Laurent. “This took up a lot of classroom time, but it was amazing when we saw the garbage can at the end of the day and it was almost empty!”
Editor’s note: Chris Mazur is an education assistant in the Grades 5/6 classroom at Bristol Elementary School. 

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