The Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Lower School for Girls, one of five divisions at the school, is showing they mean business when it comes to waste reduction and composting.

The school's science teachers spearheaded a "Waste-Free Wednesday" effort to encourage staff and students to bring or buy a lunch that leaves little or no waste.

After learning about how much waste their school produces each day during a demonstration in science class, the students wanted to do their part, too.

A six-week pilot by the Lower School's Eco Club was created to test additional waste reduction ideas including adding new bins to the cafeteria to educate students about sorting compost, recycling and waste. The club presented their ideas on how the initiative could be expanded throughout the entire school.

That's when the "Zero Waste" initiative was started.

According to Anne Sudduth and Mindy O'Connor, the club's parent volunteers, the purpose of the initiative was to create a more detailed composting, recycling and waste sorting station for students. Sudduth said the initiative examines what's continuing to be wasted and why, educates students about environmental issues and encourages to compost more and waste less.

The students also receive help writing grant proposals and help other students at the school learn how to separate their trash.

Changes to the lunchroom experience include new countertops made of fabricated recycled glass, cabinets made of eucalyptus trees for waste bins and replacing white napkins with unbleached brown napkins.
"We have diverted a significant amount of waste from going to the landfills," said Sudduth.

The Eco Club currently works with Philly Compost and plans to expand their initiative by partnering with local businesses and schools in the area.

Science teacher Marianne Maloy says she hopes, "the girls feel empowered to make change and think critically about environmental issues that affect them."

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was the only Philadelphia school to be named a "Green Ribbon School" last year by the U.S. Department of Education. The title recognizes schools that are working towards sustainability and energy-saving goals.