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St. Anselm students go paperless at lunch

new 07 St. Anselm 4.13 PParent-volunteer Rose Laston-Gaeta worked the lunch line on April 4, filling containers students bring from home with fresh fruit and vegetables. St. Anselm School eliminated the use of paper plates and napkins. (Photo by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

April 13, 2017
Christina Gray

Students at St. Anselm School were “going through paper plates and paper napkins like crazy,” longtime teacher’s aide and St. Anselm parishioner Pat Mennucci told Catholic San Francisco during a lunchtime visit to the Marin County school April 4.

But that has changed since principal Kim Orendorff sent an email to school families early in the year informing them that the school’s hot lunch program was going paperless in an effort to reduce waste. Students now must bring reusable containers with lids to plate their food or borrow the lid from a friend. Most tote their own water bottles too, though paper cups and plastic utensils are available.

“We saw all the trash we were creating at lunch and realized we had to do something about it,” said Orendorff. The school now produces one-quarter of the unrecyclable or non-compostable garbage it was previously.

Last April, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone urged all parishes in the archdiocese to respond to Pope Francis’ 2015 papal encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which among its many messages about “caring for our common home,” condemned the world’s consumer-driven “throwaway culture.”

Orendorff expected a bit of resistance from some parents but was surprised she got none.

“I just said this is the way it’s going to be and why and I didn’t hear one thing,” she said. There’s no fight from parents or students, she believes, because “they’re already doing this at home.” In Marin County, businesses and residents are working toward a “zero waste” goal by 2025 through a program called Zero Waste Marin.

Parent and St. Anselm parishioner Rose Laston-Gaeta of Ross shrugged off the suggestion that the new paperless reality might be harder for parents, as kindergarteners Hudson, Colby and Poppy held out their trays for apples, carrots and cheese pizza.

“Of course there was a little bit of a transition,” she said. The kids are adaptable, and the parents, “we know it’s important to teach our children not to be wasteful.”

Earth Day is April 22.

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