Chicago – Chicago Public Schools has taken another step towards its goal of diverting 80% of its waste from landfills with its upcoming launch of a CPS Commercial Composting and Recycling Program at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center on the city’s north side. Part of the CPS Zero Waste program, in collaboration with nonprofit Seven Generations Ahead (SGA), the Von Steuben program officially launched in February 2022. It is the first of 10 zero waste lunchroom programs planned for this year. The school put equipment and processes in place to not only ensure more materials get recycled, but to also allow students to compost food waste. Diverting food waste from landfills is critical to both CPS and Chicago’s overall sustainability and climate strategy. According to the U.S. EPA, food waste is a key source of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
CPS has already partnered with SGA’s Zero Waste Schools program to put zero waste operations in place in 14 of its schools, with plans to scale up significantly in 2022. The program focuses on waste source reduction, recycling, composting, and food recovery, taking a holistic approach to lunchroom sustainability. CPS currently generates over 40,000 tons of waste each year, about 35% of which is food waste. Through the zero waste lunch program, CPS hopes to divert at least 80% of all cafeteria and kitchen waste from landfills, while also educating students and staff on the importance of zero waste. In addition to working with 10 new schools, CPS Zero Waste will convene a team of technical experts in 2022 to develop a plan for scaling composting across the district.
The zero waste program is part of a larger CPS commitment to renewable energy and sustainability. The initiatives CPS has undertaken to conserve natural resources and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions include: implementing energy efficiency measures such as efficient lighting, which has saved over $3 million in costs and materials, and launching CPS Goes Solar!, also in partnership with SGA, to procure solar energy through community solar programs and onsite installations at schools throughout the district.
These programs will help CPS meet its goal to run on 100% renewable electricity by 2025 and reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. These goals are in line with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in order to keep global warming at a level that will avoid the worst effects. The energy and sustainability initiatives at CPS will also be vital to the City of Chicago achieving its 2021 Materials Management Strategies, as well as its climate and sustainability goals, currently being developed in the new Chicago Climate Action Plan.