A Day in the Life: Recycling Champions Coordinator Julia Goldstein

October 11, 2013

GrowNYC's School Recycling Champions program works with schools in all five boroughs to help them achieve and exceed the NYC recycling standards. They work to inform and empower the key participants in a school by providing hands-on education through materials, workshops, assemblies, and on-site demonstrations.

Recycling Champions has five outreach coordinators, each of whom works in a particular borough. Below, Manhattan Outreach Coordinator Julia Goldstein takes us through a typical day in her life as a Recycling Champion.

What I love about being a Recycling Champions coordinator is how much creativity and dedication the principals, teachers, custodians, kitchen staff, recycling coordinators, parents, and above all the students, all over the city bring to making their school environment more sustainable.

Let me give you some examples from a typical day:

The first stop of the day is my office, where I pick up materials for workshops I’m doing on the new Organics Food Scraps Collection program at Chelsea Prep (281 9th Avenue in Chelsea). I make sure to grab a coffee from Laughing Man on the way to the C train.

In the 2013-2014 school year, over 300 schools in Staten Island, Manhattan, and Brooklyn are participating in the Organics Collection Program, a joint initiative between the NYC Departments of Education and Sanitation. The goal is to collect the organic material from school cafeterias and kitchens to reduce the waste NYC sends to landfills. Organic Food Scraps Collection includes: meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruit, grains, baked goods and all soiled food service paper products.

I chat with the school’s Fireman, Ed Pierre, who has been working hard to get the new Organics signs up in the cafeteria

On Saturday I’ll go to another workshop at Chelsea Prep that includes parents, and we’ll use this, a trivia game created by RCP’s Thaddeus Copeland. The Trivia Game is one of several tools we use to engage the students in participatory learning. A student spins the wheel and depending on which icon they land on, they are asked a recycling-related trivia question

I hop back on the C to 110th Street to my second stop: Wadleigh Secondary School for the Visual & Performing Arts (215 W 114th Street in Morningside Heights).

I touch base with Al Spechar, the Custodial Engineer, who shows me a new system he is trying for separating the curbside recycling – he has painted green lines around where the paper recycling goes, and hung a mixed paper and cardboard recycling decal. Great idea! It makes it easier for the Sanitation workers if it’s always in the same place, and it makes it easy to check to make sure each type of recycling has been put out.

I jump back on the C train to 86th Street and go on to my next stop: Louis D. Brandeis High School (145 W 84 Street in the Upper West Side).  I check in with Helena Fisher, the SchoolFood Manager , to see how the Food Scraps Toter bins are working for them. We talk about how frequently they need new bags – the students are catching on to the Food Scraps Organics program faster than we had hoped!

I board the cross town bus and grab a seat and work on email. I spend so much time on public transportation it feels like my second office.

My next stop: Robert F. Wagner Middle School (220 E 76th Street in the Upper East Side). I meet with the 6th grade cafeteria recycling monitors, who make the fantastic recycling station work every day. They bring both knowledge and tact to the job of reminding their peers of the recycling rules.

I take the 4/5 back downtown to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall for my final stop of the day: Murry Bergtraum High School (411 Pearl Street in the Financial District). The sustainability coordinator, Bob Menning, walks with me through the school. Bob takes his role seriously and his energetic and talented Green Team students, like Elena Tsoy, bring creative flair to the task -- they’ve hung signs throughout the cafeteria and school reminding classmates and faculty/staff of best recycling practices.

That’s my last visit and all that’s left is to convince my fellow rush-hour passengers on the 4/5 train to make room for me and my Santa-sized bag. To their credit, being New Yorkers, they hardly give it a second glance.

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