Bloomfield Hills Schools will drop Styrofoam trays, thanks to one 14-year-old student.
Photos courtesy of Jessica Woll
During her first week of seventh grade in 2018, India Woll Stewart decided her school needed a change. For lunch, Bloomfield Hills Middle School was serving meals on Styrofoam trays, which she knew were not environmentally-friendly.
“I started to do some research about an eco-friendly option for our school’s trays, and that’s when I discovered sugarcane trays that are completely biodegradable,” Woll Stewart said.
Principal Randy English was impressed by her proposal, opting to implement the trays at the school. He encouraged her to deliver the same presentation to the Bloomfield Hills Schools Food Services Director, Marianne Romsek.
After her presentation, Romsek implemented the trays in East Hills Middle School as well. However, they found that the sugarcane trays stuck together and were also quite costly. In an effort to keep costs down and move forward with this initiative, Woll Stewart worked with Romsek to find an alternative option through a company called Enviroware.
Enviroware produces environmentally-friendly foam trays which are designed to break down much quicker than traditional foam trays and meet the FDA’s requirements for biodegradation.
“I applaud India and her efforts and believe that her passion for this effort has already made a difference and will continue to in Bloomfield Hills,” Romsek said. “We have taken most traditional foam out of our schools and are in the process of replacing it with either the enviroware foam or paper based substitutes for our hot coffee and soups.”
“It’s an awesome feeling to know that I have made a difference in my school’s community and for our environment,” Woll Stewart said.
Woll Stewart is also looking to make a difference in other communities. In December she traveled to Ecuador with the organization ME to WE for a family service trip. The family helped build a school, planted trees and spearheaded clean water initiatives in a rural Amazon community.
“We were involved with different cultural opportunities that provided understanding on why these service trips are so important,” Woll Stewart said. “We were also able to meet local artisan women who would take plastic bags and weave them into wallets and bags. They even taught us how to do it — it was very difficult, but so cool to learn something new.”
Reflecting on her recent trip to Ecuador inspired Woll Stewart to bring sustainability techniques to Detroit. Her parents are opening a restaurant, Casings and Twine, in May in the Eastern Market, which will host its own urban farm on the property.
In the past, Woll Stewart also traveled to Rajasthan, India, for her Bat Mitzvah project through the ME to WE program, where she focused on sustainability.
“I think I’ve just always had this passion to help the environment and help others in different communities,” Woll Stewart said. “I grew up playing outside in a barn, and just found my love for the environment.”
Get to know more about India Woll Stewart:
- Favorite food: Pizza
- Favorite music: Classic Rock
- Somewhere you want to visit and why: Antarctica because it looks super cool.
- Biggest supporter: My parents
- Synagogue you attend: Temple Shir Shalom
- Hobbies: Skiing and competitive rock climbing at Planet Rock in Madison Heights.
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