The Natick High School Earth Club is starting small with its new composting project, but its efforts could have a big sustainability impact at the school as well as across town.
The club, which focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the school and community, launched the composting program on Feb. 28 and is already filling two 48-gallon bins a week, according to Rebecca Adams Pandolfo, an early childhood development & education teacher at NHS. She and wellness teacher Tori Zinck are the club’s advisors.
The club is partnering with Black Earth Compost, which also collects those green carts in Natick as part of the town’s residential composting program. According to the school, residents can sign up here, and you’ll get $5 off and earn $5 to help pay for composting at NHS.
Pandolfo says “This was a phenomenal leadership opportunity for Earth Club members since a school-wide program like this includes coordination with a lot of different stakeholders. We partnered with the Natick Town Sustainability committee and Black Earth compost to plan out the logistics of the program. We also worked closely with school administration and custodial staff to ensure a smooth day-to-day operation.”
Most important has been student awareness and education. The team worked with a video production student on a promotion shown to all students the day the program launched. That’s been supplemented with flyers, daily announcements, raffles, and treats to encourage and reminder students to join in.
An environmental impact audit done for Natick High School found that composting could make a big impact.
“Over 50% of the waste produced in the cafeteria was found to be compostable, although without a compost program, it was being diverted into trash, which ends up releasing harmful greenhouse gasses into our environment,” Pandolfo said. “This data is what helped us at the Earth Club to hone in on composting as our main initiative for this year. Our goal has been to offer a solution where that 50% of waste that is compostable can instead become usable, nutrient-rich soil.”
The club has started its effort with a single bin in a prime part of the cafeteria where members can answer questions and ensure composting is done correctly.
“It can be difficult to ensure that compost bins don’t get contaminated with other waste and so we took a quality over quantity approach with this launch. We all agreed it was better to start off smaller in order to get everyone accustomed to how to compost and to iron out any unforeseen challenges before we grow,” Pandolfo said.
The club expects to expand the program beyond student lunch waste, possibly to include waste from food prep in the kitchen.
Hopefully word of the program’s success will reach homes throughout town. As of now, about 1,100 Natick households are enrolled in the town’s curbside composting program, according to Jillian Wilson-Martin, Natick’s director of sustainability. “We have been kind of ‘stuck’ at around this number for about a year. If we get 1,500 households composting, the cost would go down for everyone from $115 / year to $90 / year.”
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