Get Scrappy

From the Watertown Daily Times:

Canton cafeteria going green

COMPOST PROJECT: Students find way to redirect much of school’s food waste

CANTON — Starting next school year, a hefty portion of cafeteria food waste no longer will end up in garbage cans at Canton Central’s Hugh C. Williams High School.

Instead, potato peels, eggshells, apple cores and other organic waste from the kitchen and lunch trays will be converted into fertilizer for the school’s community garden.

Kelley A. Corbine, a graduating senior, spearheaded construction of a 5-foot-high cinder block compost bin for the school’s two vegetable gardens.

“We’ve been talking about this since we were sophomores,” Miss Corbine said. “It’s neat to see it all come together before we graduate.”

After they finish eating lunch, high school students will be asked to separate organic food scraps from the rest of their garbage. Cafeteria staff will separate out scraps during meal preparations.

Meat and dairy products won’t head to the compost pile because they smell bad as they decompose and might attract animals.

Ella Mae “Bluejay” Fenlong, the district’s food services director, estimates that 35 percent of cafeteria food waste will be composted, rather than thrown into the garbage or put down the garbage disposal.

“This is something I’ve wanted to see happen for a long time,” Ms. Fenlong said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Laminated posters will be created to illustrate what foods should be separated out for the compost bin and which waste should continue to go into the regular garbage.

The 15-foot-long compost bin was made with 216 concrete cinder blocks. Completed last week, the work was handled by Miss Corbine and classmates from her environmental science class taught by Thomas B. Van de Water.

It’s a project that Miss Corbine started thinking about two years, ago after her classmate Kaitlyn M. Lawrence attended an Adirondack Youth Climate Conference at Tupper Lake.

When Miss Lawrence returned, the two friends started brainstorming ideas.

Through the school’s Participation in Government program, Miss Corbine contacted Stephen F. VanderMark, a senior resource officer at Cornell Cooperative Extension. He provided guidance and a book showing different compost designs.

After deciding to use cinder blocks, Miss Corbine received a half-price discount on materials from the Potsdam Lowe’s store. Funds from the high school’s Environmental Club covered the $260 cost of cinder blocks, concrete pads and cloth netting.

The food waste will be mixed with grass clippings and sod to create a compost pile. Students or community volunteers will be asked to turn the compost pile about every week or so to help spur decomposition.

Mr. Van de Water said having his environmental class work on the project was a valuable experience.

“They’ve been environmental philosophers and now they’re being direct participants,” he said.

Eventually, the plan is to have Canton’s elementary and middle schools join the compost efforts.

“They’re more apt to be environmentally friendly if they grow up doing these things,” Miss Lawrence said.

It is a proven fact that teaching our kids while they’re young about environmentalism and sustainability leads to them being more green-conscious adults. And every time I hear about a young person (oh jeez, I sound old!) leading the way for their school to be a little greener, I get a thrill. It’s great that Canton Central already had a community garden, but for Miss Lawrence to suggest a compost pit shows a true understanding of the cyclical nature of gardening. You grow girl!


One thought on “Get Scrappy

  1. I NEVER thought you were paying much attention, but you must have learned something from your parents growing up. Composting, raised bed organic gardening, canning, raising chickens, etc……It sure does pay to get that instilled in a child as part of their ethical makeup.
    I’m just thrilled that they offer an environmental science class in high school.Great curriculum!

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