In March, as part of the Illinois Green Alliance Green Schools Project, 5th graders at Whittier School in Downers Grove School District 58 conducted a School Lunch Waste Audit. The goal was to help students better understand the waste profile at the school while at the same time helping the school manage waste hauling contracts, dumpster sizing, recycling programs, and other initiatives. John Mlade, Director of Sustainable and Healthy Environments at Wight & Company, current Board Chair of the Illinois Green Alliance, and Whittier School parent, served as an advisor and educator for the event.

“The Illinois Green Alliance Green Schools Project is a great way to engage students around ideas of environmental stewardship.” says Mlade. “Through the program, schools are provided training and paired with volunteer professionals that can help guide their project through to success.”

The results of the audit were eye-opening:

In addition to educating students on the importance of being more mindful with their lunches, the data collected at this audit and others like it as part of the Green Schools Project helps inform school and district contracts for waste hauling, recycling programs, dumpster volume, and composting programs.

“In the case of Whittier, one reason waste may be relatively low is because there is no food service at the school. Students are really good about bringing water bottles and using reusable lunch sacks. There is always room for improvement though – over 20% of the waste was whole organics, meaning uneaten fruit or sandwiches. Talking to kids about their lunch habits, what they eat, and what they toss, could help parents right size lunch servings and pack foods that they are certain their kids will eat” reflects Mlade.

To learn more about the Illinois Green Alliance and the Green Schools Project, visit their website.