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WRAL: RAMA - Reusable Lunch Items

RAM Academy has been selected to pilot this program and will begin Tuesday, October 4, 2022, during lunch periods.

DURHAM, N.C. — A brand new partnership between a Durham non-profit and a charter school is helping the environment.

Don’t Waste Durham and Reaching All Minds Academy have partnered to bring in reusable lunch trays and silverware, cutting carbon emissions, and saving money.

The academy spotlights sustainability for students on the ground with community gardens, on the go using refurbished buses as greenhouses and on the roof with solar panels.

The public charter school has encouraged recycling and composting.

Now, the academy's Director of Operations Natasha Wayne explained they’ve decided to go a step further.

"We realized that we are doing better because we’re creating a compostable product that can be used in our community gardens, and we actually do use that service and compost there, but we were still creating waste," Wayne said. "We will add a fourth station that is strictly for those reusable trays and silverware or utensils so that the students can sort their trash and then put that item into that reusable section."

The school has 400 students and about 90% eat school lunches every day.

Don’t Waste Durham already partners with restaurants, grocery stores, and cafes in its Green to Go program, sanitizing and delivering reusable takeout containers. This partnership will operate in a similar same way, on a larger scale.

"If we want to see a future that operates differently, then we have to start operating differently," Founder and CEO Crystal Dreisbach said. "Lots of people pick up litter, lots of people recycle. We think those are great, but what we want to work on is creating new systems that create reusables."

Dreisbach said washing the stainless steel trays requires less energy than what’s needed to create single-use items.

"You save water, electricity, carbon emissions, and landfill volume when you switch to something that’s reusable," she said.

Don’t Waste Durham will pick up and drop off the trays at the school each day.

"Because we have the infrastructure of the wash hub, and we know how to pick up, wash, and deliver things, we thought why not expand our customer base to groups that eat in large quantity, every day, on the same type of server ware," Dreisbach said.

In addition to the environmental impact, the new way of eating at school is also cost saving for Reaching All Minds Academy.

In a three year pricing map, the school is saving money by the second year, since they only have to purchase the trays once.

"The thing that can be a little bit scary is like, ‘Oh I’m spending this on these items the first time,’ but as we looked at what we spend over the year versus one time cost, we came down to within a penny difference," Wayne explained. "We were able to get there within the second month of our second year so that we were actually saving exponentially more."

The new lunch items will be at the school starting on September 19th.

Don’t Waste Durham tells WRAL they are currently in conversations with the Durham public school district on expanding this project further.


We thank you for your assistance and helping students with this new program implementation of Don’t Waste Durham.

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