Talking ‘trash’ has created a ‘go green’ movement at the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Junior/Senior High School. A student-led cafeteria compost project has completely transformed the school building’s carbon footprint and how much trash gets generated during the school’s daily lunches.
The composting project was the brain-child of the school’s Sustainability Committee which is led by advisor Eric Lanious. Members of the APW senior class, including Mikaela Pluff who took the lead on the composting project, introduced a three-bin recycling system to the cafeteria.
One bin is for milk cartons with a separate bucket to dump unwanted milk in; a second bin is for composting items like fruit and vegetable scraps; and the third bin is for everything else – paper and plastic items and actual trash.
This small change has had a “huge” impact on the amount of waste generated during the daily lunches, according to the school’s head custodian Laurie Parker.
According to Parker the pre-composting lunches sometimes generated up to six bags of garbage. Now Parker says that the lunches generally generate one to two bags of garbage maximum.
The three-bin system is just one component of the students’ project, another component is a composting pile on the school grounds. At the end of the lunches each school day volunteers from the Sustainability Committee pick up the fruit and vegetable scraps and add it to the composting tumblers.
The compost generated by the tumblers will be used in the spring of the year for the school’s continuing community garden project.
While the transition has seemed seamless for many in the school, Pluff and her fellow committee members spent a substantial amount of time planning for the project, speaking to each staff member and student about the what to expect prior to implementation, and coordinating efforts with the cafeteria and custodial staff. Much of the students’ pre-planning and collaboration takes place using Google Docs – a web-based collaboration tool.
The committee members also volunteer their lunchtime to monitor the composting area – helping staff and students who may have questions as to what is and is not recyclable or compostable.
The project is off to a great start according to Parker.
“Every student is really dedicated to making the composting project a success,” Parker said.
Committee advisor Lanious concurred with Parker, adding, “The students are very environmentally conscience and are really committed to making their school and their community more ‘green.’”
The Sustainability Committee coordinates several environmentally-friendly, student-led projects throughout the school year. In addition to implementing a composting project at their school, the committee is engineering an electric-powered bicycle, plants and tends a community vegetable garden, and has plans in the spring of the year to plant a small apple orchard on the school property.
Participation in the committee builds leadership skills and gives students an opportunity to explore projects that they have an interest in and that have a global impact.
For more information about the projects coordinated through the Sustainability Committee contact the APW Junior/Senior High School at 625-5220.