by Eileen Weber
Take these Staples High School students from Westport, for example. Casey Richardson, along with her friends Molly Pieper, Sasha Bern and Venetia Stanley, became environmental entrepreneurs founding the Soil Yourself Composting company. Richardson, the mastermind behind the project, focused her junior year research paper on the subject, which sparked the idea for their business.
“Even though what we are doing is on a very small, local scale, I know what we are doing is really making a difference,” said Pieper. “It's great knowing that I am doing my part to protect my earth.”
With a little financial help from their parents and an investment of $600, they bought composting tumblers to deposit food scraps and other organic waste. They turn the material over a few times a day to keep it aerated. Scraps like eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds and corn cobs supply a nice ratio between carbon and nitrogen-rich elements to the soil.
While these young women have gotten phenomenal responses from the community in support of their project, they haven’t seen the fruit of their labors yet. “Our first food scrap pick-up was June 22,” said Pieper, “so about two months from then will be our first compost delivery.”
These Staples students aren’t alone in their efforts to compost their way to a green future. Other schools, both elementary and secondary, have started their own composting groups.
Mansfield Middle School in Storrs has a compost project. They use the organic waste from the school as their compost material. From that, they use the compost as a teaching tool for their science curriculum. In the same community as the middle school, Southeast, Annie Vinton and Goodwin Elementary Schools also have composting projects.
The students at Al-Ghazaly Junior/Senior High School in Teaneck, NJ recycle their food scraps. "We have our compost bins set up outside, and everyday we have students collecting leftover food from the cafeteria and making their daily run to the bins," said science teacher Diana Saed, as quoted in a November 18, 2007, blog post on ConvertedOrganics.com. "The high school students are taking the lead on this project and it's great because it really cuts down on waste."
From northern New England to the West Coast to the U.S. Virgin Islands, schools everywhere are taking composting seriously. It makes science tangible in the classroom where other lessons may fall short. Composting reduces a school’s waste to landfills, recycles natural resources that are readily available, and teaches social responsibility to students who become a future community of environmentally aware adults.
That social responsibility doesn’t end with schools, either. In a New York Times article dated June 10, 2009, San Francisco residents will incur fines up to $1000 if they don’t sort their trash and recyclables properly. This includes one bin for regular trash, one bin for recyclables like plastic and aluminum, and one bin for composting.
“When the nation is looking at complex solutions for climate-change reduction,” said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the city’s Department of the Environment, as quoted in the article, “we should not overlook the importance of simple things like increasing the recycling rate and composting.”
Almost all of the 400 tons of food scraps that are composted in the San Francisco municipality go to the Napa and Sonoma vineyards. Consider that the next time you crack open a bottle of Pinot Noir.
Soil Yourself’s Pieper said that composting is just one more step toward saving the environment in an economical way. “I think that people are genuinely excited about what we are doing,” she said. “If [we] have inspired as many people as possible to compost, then we have truly reached our goal.”
Photo courtesy of Dan Woog’s blog, 06880.