Wednesday, February 07, 2007

toward zero waste

Evangeline's school, where I am on the board of trustees, is working toward becoming a green facility as part of the next phase of our building plan: solar power, a green roof, worm composting, the whole thing.
Worm composting?
One of the teachers and I were talking recently about moving beyond recycling paper, plastic and metal, and getting the children to practice the rest of the recycling process, the one that involves breaking down organic waste and producing compost to beautify the school flower beds and lawn. Essentially, we would begin in the upper grades and trickle down, setting up a worm composting bin in each classroom where kids can toss unwanted vegetables or fruit from snacktime. Worms in the bins -- red wrigglers -- would eat the food and in the process turn it into gardening gold, which our school badly needs. (The soil is so bad that the grass is not growing along its rhizomes, as it would in healthy soil.)
Vermicomposting is completely natural, produces valuable nutrients, and as long as no one tosses in meat, cheese or a carton of milk, it won't attract mice or create a bad smell.
Composting only makes sense for schools, homes and businesses. A third of the garbage Americans put into the waste stream is yard waste -- fully compostable things like grass and leaves. Once it enters the waste stream, we burn fuel transporting it, we waste land burying it, and we lose out on the resources that we could (and should) be reclaiming from the materials. Instead, they fester inside a landfill, out of reach.
So I like the idea of putting composters in the classrooms. It'd be hands-on education for the kids, who will get to see "their" worms and connect food, waste and the lifecycle; and it will reduce the school's waste output, particularly if we can expand the program with an outdoor composter that can handle dairy and meet as well. Those are available, and without the worry of attracting rodents, but they go for $160 and come only by the dozen. Ideally, we should be getting our waste output as close as we can to the point that we're tossing out nothing but plastics that can't be recycled.
I like the idea of composting, period. It's the fourth leg of recycling, and it's high time more of us started doing it.

No comments: