Return to Headlines

Compostable lunch trays across CCSD help push toward sustainability

Students at Fox Hollow Elementary School.The Cherry Creek School District’s ongoing efforts to become more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly are hitting a school lunchroom near you.

The district is now using compostable lunch trays in lieu of polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) trays. These new trays are less hazardous to the environment, and will serve students eating approximately 18,000 lunches and 4,500 breakfasts a day.

“That’s a lot of trays,” said Shannon Thompson, assistant director of CCSD Food and Nutrition Services. “These new trays are 100 percent compostable. They’re molded fiber trays – 25 percent of that fiber is recycled, 75 percent is renewable resources.”
The shift aligns with a broader push to increase energy efficiency across the district and become a more environmentally friendly organization. Other efforts include establishing a new districtwide Energy and Environmental Manager position; adding new recycle bins and receptacles in schools and offices across CCSD; refiguring bus routes to be more efficient; and looking at other ways to reduce single-use plastic and waste in food systems.

“The community has definitely told us that they really want to see a more sustainable way to do lunch trays,” Thompson said. “We started using them last year as part of a pilot program, and we have secured them for the entire 2022-23 school year. We will definitely not go back to Styrofoam.”

Part of the reason for that is state legislation that will eventually ban the use of the material in school cafeteria materials. The district has worked hard to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to finding new and innovative ways to decrease waste, increase efficiency and be better stewards of the environment for a system that spans 108 square miles.

“We want to be a part of making the school district as renewable as we can,” Thompson said. “We’re excited that this could actually happen. It’s neat that all of these things came together.”

Students across CCSD also played a role in the transition. For example, a group of students at West Middle School led the charge to increase the visibility and availability of recycling bins. Those grass-roots efforts have had a widespread impact, according to Chief Financial and Operating Officer Scott Smith.

“There is a lot of opportunity for this organization to be a good environmental steward and tie that in to learning,” Smith said earlier this year. “There’s a way to save money, do things more efficiently, benefit the environment and tie that back to educating our students.”

-- Posted 9/30/22 at 10:30 AM