But, of course, the Young Activist Club would vastly prefer heavy-duty reusable trays- the kind most of us parents had in school- and a dishwasher with which to wash them. This is apparently a radical proposal. Those crazy little environmentalists! Dishwashers cost money! Use water and electricity! Use detergent! Require labor! Can't be replicated across the school system! (And that's why we've all given up using them at home and use styrofoam plates, cups and bowls for everything. So much cheaper and more sustainable, and after all, some people don't have dishwashers-for the record, this includes me- it's an economic justice issue, right?)
My twelve-year-old asked me this morning if I had considered my vote for Montgomery County Board of Education in the June 24th primary. I had not, yet. My daughter said, urgently, "Can you please vote for someone who cares a lot about the environment?"
Now, "someone who cares a lot about the environment" is generally an important criterion for me when voting, in almost any race. But I hadn't thought about it for Board of Education. I knew immediately, though, what my daughter had in mind. She was thinking of the Piney Branch Young Activists Club, and friends of hers who were alumnae, and their tireless campaign to end the use of styrofoam lunch trays in local schools.
The kids have been halfway successful. This year, one of our schools piloted a program using recyclable cardboard trays, and next year the whole county will be switching to cardboard. That's an average of 57,000 trays per day (over 10 million per year) which will not be made of styrofoam.
So, which of our Board of Education candidates might actually support the kids in their dishwasher activism? The Young Activists have been blown off many times, even by progressive local politicians they'd assumed would be sympathetic. Montgomery's Whole Child Coalition issued a questionnaire to all four candidates, which included the question: "What is your position on student-led initiatives and pilot projects such as the Young Activist Club’s dishwasher project?" Only two candidates answered the questionnaire.
Merry Eisner-Heidorn replied:
I think student-led initiatives are the best. In fact, Start School Later has benefited from student-led initiatives in several school districts across the country. And when I organize testimony, whether it's at the county, state or federal level, student voices are critical. It's what makes a hearing about any education issue compelling. When children recognize that change is essential, we need to support them. When they embrace a cause that they believe will make a difference in the future, we need to find a way to fund it. Because by their very nature, children seek the safety and security of the status quo. So if they're willing to test something new, we need to go with them. The future is theirs.
"I fully support and encourage our children's advocacy efforts and hope they continue their courageous battles to protect our world and future. The pilot project for the recyclable trays being launched at a school besides Piney Branch was a slap in the face to the community. Again, we should be on the cutting edge of such efforts. As it is, we are behind all the counties that surround us, as well as the other large school systems."
Ortman-Fouse makes an excellent point (that the children who fought so hard for this change are not the pilot's beneficiaries), and- more importantly- seems to be up-to-date and conscious of the evolving situation.
As for the other candidates, Edward Amatetti and Shebra Evans, I can't find any record of either one taking a position on the lunch tray issue, though Evans attended a public meeting in 2012 where it was discussed (and hence is likely at least aware of the question).
So, children, pester your parents to make their vote based on candidates' position on sane lunch tray usage. You have a lot of power. Most parents don't know what the hell is even going on in your lunchroom (what do you mean, there isn't an actual kitchen anymore?). They're not there. It's up to you to inform them.
And remember, as soon as you're old enough: VOTE.