May 12, 2016
What started out as one local mom’s fight against food waste has recently become a full fledged war involving not only Andover, but surrounding towns as well.
Since launching the Zero Waste Program at Sanborn Elementary in December 2015, Carina Schusterman’s dream of eliminating waste in Andover has increasingly become a reality.
Getting the program started, though, was not easy.
Schusterman spent three years pleading with town and school officials to implement the Zero Waste Program at Sanborn. During those three years, she also fought to get permits, approvals and support from the town and Board of Health.
Schusterman and other parents began collecting uneaten fruits and unopened packaged foods during lunch at Sanborn Elementary last year and the initiative has since spread throughout town and garnered recognition from state officials as well.
But recognition has never been Schusterman’s goal.
“We want the kids to be recognized and we want them to realize that they can make a difference,”
Schusterman said. “Our effort is really to educate the kids that food is not trash.”
Schusterman and other parent volunteers collect the unopened and unused food each week and donate it to local families in need. Each day, they encourage students to take only the food they will eat and educate them about food waste.
“You look around the cafeteria at Sanborn and see 400 little minds,” Selen Aktar, also a Sanborn parent, added. “They are the generation that can change the world. We just want to show them how.”
Earlier this month at the State House, Schusterman, Aktar and other parent-volunteers Claire Stocker and Brad Weeden received Energy & Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education for their efforts in getting the program started.
On Monday, Senator Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, presented Schusterman, Aktar, Stocker and a group of Sanborn student volunteers with a citation from the senate acknowledging their involvement in the
Zero Waste program.
Later this month, Schusterman, Aktar and Stocker will again receive an award at the Statehouse. This time, the award is from the Outstanding School-led Project in Climate Action from Green Schools, a Massachusetts-based, national non-profit organization that provides educational environmental programs and resources to students and schools.
Since April of this year, St. Augustine’s, West and Doherty middle schools, High Plain Elementary and a school in North Andover have all implemented the Zero Waste program. Schusterman said parents from schools in Boxford and Tewksbury have reached out to her to start the program in their towns as well.
Just after receiving the citation from Sen. L’Italien, another local parent sent Schusterman an email requesting help getting the program started at South Elementary School.
By the beginning of next school year, Andover’s Department of Public Works Director Marc Fournier said all Andover schools will be participating in the Zero Waste Program.
“We’ll be meeting with head custodians and food service workers and figuring out how we can institutionalize this program,” Fournier said. “We’ll get the infrastructure in place and begin to conserve these valuable resources. It will help the town reduce its carbon footprint.”
Fournier added that the program will not only help educate students about the importance of minimizing waste, but will also help adults understand the impact of conserving waste.
But for Aktar and the other parent volunteers, Andover is just one small part of a much bigger goal.
“It’s really about changing lifestyles,” Aktar said. “These kids are going to save the planet and we want to help them. I always say that the planet is sick. Together, we’re going to heal it.”