In honor of AISB’s Earth Week, Garden Community Advisor Sean Whitney sat down with the manager of our Stradale cafeteria, Octavia Stoica, to talk about food consumption and waste management.

Inspired by the Kiss the Ground documentary, Whitney says his group is looking to promote earth-sustainable solutions—starting with celebrating home-grown and school-grown vegetables, herbs, and fruits. To do this, they’re currently constructing greenhouses and working with Stradale to ensure environmentally-friendly practices.

Q: What is Stradale doing to reduce non-food waste and single-use plastic on campus?

A: A few years ago, AISB’s Eco Council requested a ban on the sale of single use bottled drinking water at AISB. This ban was lifted when Covid-19 safety measures limited the use of water dispensers on campus. We’re happy to finally stop selling bottled water again, especially as teachers support students in their efforts to bring reusable water bottles to school. We are also open to new suggestions from anyone interested to help with this action.

In addition, because Covid-19 safety measures were reduced last month, we were happy to eliminate the disposable silverware bags. These paper bags indeed helped make us feel safer, but also produced quite a bit of waste. Thanks to this change, we can now focus on other environment-friendly activities.

Lastly, regarding the meals at our Mitzu Coffee Shop, there are still some products covered with plastic materials and we are now exploring new alternatives of packaging. We understand this issue and we see it as another opportunity to make a change in the benefit of our planet. For drinks ordered at Mitzu, we welcome customers who want to use refillable mugs and will continue to give free coffee if you refill with your mug and use a punch card.  

Q: What portion of prepared food goes to waste each day?  

A: Each day we pursue making the estimations of the needed food quantities as accurate as possible. In this way, we ensure the minimization of the food waste. However, during this period of international crisis, we have deliberately chosen to prepare larger amounts of food as we wanted to take action and help the Ukrainian families of refugees that crossed the Romanian borders. We are making packages and Andrey Kavun is taking to the Nord Railway Station for the Ukrainian refugees.

On another note, If the lunch food portions are too big, and we remind customers that we have two options that allow flexibility: Red Tray Smaller Portion, 17 lei, which is recommended for grades 1- 5, and the White Tray Bigger Portion, 25 lei, which is recommended for grades 5- grade 12.

Q: I know of a few initiatives in past years to reduce AISB’s food waste. PAWS encouraged students to donate meat to dog shelters, and staff could purchase unsold food at a discounted rate. Any thoughts on restarting these projects?

A: Fortunately, these projects are not so far away from becoming reality again. The first initiative, the one of selective waste disposal, is already under discussions to restart. We will not focus any more on offering nourishment to the dogs in the shelters, but we prepared a larger action: we want to teach children the importance of selecting waste and thus, the steps that they should take for recycling. At the moment, we have put the project on hold as we are waiting to find enough personnel. As for the other project, it is an initiative that we wish to address again in the future and we are open to further discuss it so that we can find a solution together.  

Q: Can you tell me about any other food waste management initiatives I might not be aware of?

A: A few years ago, we created a project in which AISB’s cafeteria food waste was delivered to a local pig and chicken farm. We would like to restart this initiative. More than that, from what I remember, I also understand that AISB plans to use some food waste to make soil for on campus-gardening and growing. We think that’s an excellent idea and we would definitely like to support it and take part in it.

Q: Can you describe how students can take more responsibility by managing their waste in a more earth-friendly way?

A: We believe that any successful project requires a few steps, including for the ones previously discussed. We should try changing the way students discard their food waste. It is essential to have the support from both AISB teachers and students to separate their food waste into different bins: one bin will be food waste that goes to an animal agriculture farm; another one will be for unwanted bread for feeding poultry, another for making soil and compost, and the list goes on. Only by taking these small (but certain) steps, and by doing this together, we can make a real change to the environment and to our planet’s wellbeing.

Q: Changing the way students discard their food seems a bit more difficult than what we do now.  It requires some effort on the part of students, correct?

A: Yes, it will require responsibility and participation. Stradale is willing to support reducing food waste, and needs community support to do it.

Q: So, sorting is more challenging, but ultimately more responsible and environmentally friendly…

A: Exactly. We do understand the impact of what an unhealthy Planet Earth could have on all our children and future generations. Because we acknowledge this, and because we want them to live in a healthier and more balanced environment, we do everything we can to create this new better world that they will need.

Sometimes we do this with little steps, and sometimes through bigger and more powerful activities; but in all we do, we make sure to constantly search for improvements and innovative solutions. Luckily, during all these years of starting and developing projects, we have been always thankful to have by our side trustful and determined partners as AISB.

Q: Seems helping our students and teachers to understand why their efforts are needed is the first step, then we decide if they’re prepared for a new way of disposing of their leftover food?

A: Certainly. For all of these kinds of changes we need the total involvement of as many people as possible. As they say, “The more, the merrier,” and this is for sure the best step for a better and healthier Planet Earth.

Whitney hopes that this conversation is just a starting point, and encourages AISB community members to watch the following videos to learn about composting:

Video #1: Why Compost?

Video #2: Compost Magic

Video #3: Composting Made Simple

So, how can we manage our waste in a more earth-friendly way? Discuss in advisory, or comment below if you have a particularly great idea!