Pre-K student’s idea to replace plastic silverware helps reduce school’s waste

Alamo Heights ISD campus wants less disposable and more reusable products at school

The idea to reduce single-use plastic consumption began through the heart of one former Pre-K student, Isaac Villarreal, after his first day of school in 2018.

SAN ANTONIO – They’re small but mighty. More than 400 students in Pre-K and kindergarten from Alamo Heights ISD are working together to make a difference beyond the halls of Howard Early Childhood Center.

This year, the school adopted a new initiative, “Our Planet, Less Disposable More Reusable”, to help reduce the amount of waste they produce through cutlery.

Not one plastic fork, spoon or knife can be found in the school cafeteria. Through the 2019 Christmas break, all plastic cutlery was replaced with metal silverware.

The idea to reduce single-use plastic consumption began through the heart of one former Pre-K student, Isaac Villarreal, after his first day of school in 2018.

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“I asked him how his first day went, and he said that he was sad because they made him throw away his silverware that he’d just used and also the food that he had not finished,” Cristina Montesinos Villarreal, Isaac’s mother, said.

Montesinos Villarreal was just as shocked as her son Isaac who, from a very young age, had been taught to reduce waste.

"(At home) we use regular dinner plates, we use metal silverware and now we use cloth napkins," Montesinos Villarreal said. "We shouldn't be throwing away our food or using (plastic) once just to put it in the trash can."

Alamo Heights

Montesinos Villarreal felt it was important to call attention to the amount of waste the school was producing due to its protocols.

"School is not only there, I think, to teach students how to read and write, but also how to be good citizens, how to understand their actions and their consequences," Montesinos Villarreal said.

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The concern was shared with their homeroom teacher, Mercedes Champion.

“She was talking to me about how much plastic we use in this school,” Champion said.

Champion was open to making adjustments. The change first began with Isaac. He was able to bring his metal silverware and a container to store leftover food. Those actions were quickly noticed by other teachers and peers.

“I decided to just ask the parents to start sending their own silverware. The ones that didn’t do it, I decided to just go and get a few (sets of silverware) for my classroom,” Champion said.

Champion said the students are very aware of the consequences plastic can have on the world and now the entire school has joined the silverware initiative.

"I teach them about nature and animals and how to take care of the planet in general," Champion said.

If students choose to use plastic ware, they know exactly what to do: wash and reuse.

Montesinos Villarreal and her son said they’re happy with the measures taken by the school to protect the environment, but their work isn’t done yet. Her son is now attending a different school district in San Antonio.

“We’re trying to promote change there now,” Montesinos Villarreal said.

Their goal is to inspire other schools or homes to start making changes that will cut back the consumption of plastic.

About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.