Reducing Waste at VdM

As humans we have an impact on our world. Our actions and behaviors affect not only our own lives and spaces but the whole of nature, our planet. Let’s be very honest here—it is not easy to stay mindful of the consequences of our choices; convenience and habit get in the way, and we are often tempted to take shortcuts and make decisions that save us time or extra work (I am thinking especially about the drink cups, straws, paper napkins, granola bar wrappers, plastic baggies and ketchup packets that pile up in our lives). But at Villa di Maria we are committed to making the effort, to evaluating our processes and making changes toward consciously lightening the load on our planet.

And we are lucky because we have Sophie Andre, assistant in the Checkerboard Lower Elementary classroom, mother to a VdM student and advocate for the environment, on our team. Sophie keeps our staff, students and families motivated to reduce and recycle waste on campus as much as we can. She reminds us of the positive changes we’ve already made and inspires us to continue to find small (and big) ways to keep VdM focused on sustainability.

As I mentioned above, Villa di Maria has a number of processes in place to reduce our environmental impact. Here’s some of what we’re doing:

General Campus:

  • We use real dishes, flatware and cloth napkins in all classrooms as well as late stay
  • Our garden provides vegetables for vegetable cutting and hot lunch as well as flowers for flower arranging and flower dissection
  • Our garden also contains two compost bins, fed daily by each classrooms compostable food waste
  • Single-stream recycling of paper and plastic

Children’s Houses:

  • Replaced ziploc bags with reusable glass jars for children to take home their vegetable-cutting work
  • Replaced plastic bags with canvas bags for transporting extra clothes to and from home


  • Using reusable bags and containers for shopping during goings out and/or hot lunch shopping
  • Making cleaning supplies using vinegar, baking soda, essential oils and citrus peels

Celebrations and Events:

  • Eliminated plastic water bottles at all school events
  • Classrooms have moved toward eliminating disposable or single-use party-ware with reusable plates, cups and flatware
  • Using natural elements, found in nature and compostable, for seasonal and holiday decorations
  • Halloween costume swap

Many of the changes listed above are small, incremental even, but cumulatively, they make a large positive impact. We are not only producing less waste as a campus, we are modeling these practices for our students, and that makes us pretty proud.

We have more work to do and, with Sophie’s motivation, we will continue to work toward as-close-to-zero-waste as we can possibly get. Some of our goals include:

  • Replacing all plastic containers in the kitchen with glass ones, preferably second-hand
  • Using glass jars/containers for hot lunch and dish day cooks to take home their leftovers
  • Buying pantry items in bulk
  • Using more eco-friendly soaps and cleaning supplies throughout the campus
  • Regular seasonal clothing swaps
  • Using a Bokashi composter to compost almost all foods
  • Reducing paper consumption

And finally, we are enlisting the help of our families to come together to learn more about what they can do at our school and in their homes to reduce waste. This past fall Sophie hosted our first waste-free picnic and she’ll be hosting another one this spring! And coming very soon, Sophie will take parents food shopping to show how she shops for groceries without any extra bags or containers.

We’ll be checking back in with Sophie and VdM’s goals to reduce waste as this school year goes on. Stay tuned!