Cincinnati, Ohio, September 15, 2016 – Saint Ursula Academy has launched a new program that it hopes will cut the waste at school dramatically. SUA’s Bulldog Fresh Market, which provides healthy lunch options to Saint Ursula students daily, has always made a point to recycle. This year when the students returned to school however, they were greeted with a new system for waste which includes an option for composting as well as recycling. This new initiative is already making a big dent in the amount of trash that is taken to the landfill each week.
The topic of reducing, reusing, and recycling is not a new concept for Saint Ursula Academy, but during the 2015-2016 school year, SUA religion teacher Jenny Mertens began relating this concept to Pope Francis’ call for mercy and to take care of the environment. At the same time, SUA science teacher Mark Simcoe was talking to his AP Environmental Science about these concepts as they relate to the earth’s limited natural resources. Students from both classes, along with their teachers, began asking questions about what else they could do at Saint Ursula that would further reduce the amount of trash produced by the school. They began looking at the amount of waste produced by more than 650 students during lunch and realized that the initiative should begin there.
Ms. Mertens and Mr. Simcoe began to look around for successful ideas for reducing trash through use of organized systems in school cafeterias. The system they chose allows for separate bins for recyclable items, compostable items, and trash and also allows for an area where students can stack similar items such as plates and cups. By stacking similar items, this system decreases the volume of trash put into garbage bags and eventually, landfills.
After determining this system would be feasible for the Fresh Market, Ms. Mertens and Mr. Simcoe needed to secure permission and funding to purchase the bins. All members of the Saint Ursula Administration and the Fresh Market Administrators thought the initiative was important to the school and to the environment and they immediately voiced their support. The Ursuline Sisters of Cincinnati, who founded Saint Ursula Academy in 1910, were eager to provide the grant money needed to purchase the bins.
When Saint Ursula students returned to school in August, they too were thrilled with the new system. Julie Ahrnsen ’18 of Mt. Airy hopes this new program will cause others to think about things they can do at home as well.
"I hope others learn about the positive impact they can have on the environment through SUA's sustainability initiative. Our recycling and composting program allows students to directly see the power they have to nurture the Earth. While I love to see my fellow classmates participating in this program at school, I truly hope SUA students learn to implement these sustainable behaviors into their own lives, therefore fully embodying the Saint Ursula mission of building a better world."
Many students believe that their friends don’t always think about the effects on the environment and hope that this small effort in the Fresh Market will make students realize the large impact initiatives such as these may have on the environment. Within the first week of school, the amount of trash in the dumpster decreased from 6-7 bags per day last year, to less than 2 bags per day this year.
“St. Ursula's new composting initiative is so important,” says Grace Coughlin ’19 of Anderson Township. “Not only are we cutting down on the school's waste but hopefully also showing students that being sustainable is much easier than they assumed.”
While this project is already seeing success, students know that even more can be done to reduce the amount of trash and are hopeful that this sustainability initiative leads to even greater measures to reduce, reuse, and recycle. They are hopeful that the amount of trash, which consists mainly of snack containers and wrappers, will be reduced and that reusable dishes and silverware will soon be available in the Fresh Market.
Saint Ursula Academy is a Catholic, college-preparatory, secondary school for young women known for academic excellence and rich tradition. Saint Ursula welcomes students from more than 90 grade schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. The Academy is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. The campus, located at 1339 E. McMillan Street in East Walnut Hills has been the home of St. Ursula Academy and Convent since 1910. 86% of the Class of 2016 earned college scholarships totaling more than $22-million.
Photo caption: Saint Ursula Academy freshman Ricki Bennett from Anderson Township composts the uneaten portion of her lunch using the new sorting system in place in the Fresh Market.