Composting Champion of the Week
9 October 2019
Evening Street Elementary:
In-school composting teaches responsibility
Interview With Ann Mehl, Zero Waste Lunch Coordinator
9 October 2019 | Article by Bridget Marcek; Photos courtesy of Evening Street
Did you know that we have a handful of schools in our composting family? Composting and food waste recycling complements education for students of all ages— from kindergarten to college. This month’s Compost Champion is Evening Street Elementary, part of Worthington Public Schools.
Students are heavily involved in Zero Waste Lunch at Evening Street Elementary. At the end of lunch, students gather unopened packaged food for donation to the food pantry, sort recyclables, separate food waste and compostables, and even stack disposable trays to take up less space in the garbage.
Third graders take the lead setting up different bins for the other students. Third graders also train each other in how the program operates, reminding each other what goes where. “The third-graders are enthusiastic and really enjoy having the responsibility,” says Ann Mehl, the program’s coordinator. Third grade is also when students learn about recycling, so the program complements what’s happening in the classroom.
The work of students and parent volunteers is well worth it. “We’ve reduced cafeteria trash by ½ to ¾,” says Mehl. “Before Zero Waste Lunch, we were filling four to six 44-gallon trash cans. Now, we fill less than two,” she adds. And the students, parents, and teachers aren’t stopping there. Next, Mehl and others hope to work with the district to introduce compostable trays and bring composting and waste separation to school events, especially those with a focus on food.
Beyond school, students are bringing a zero food waste mindset home. This is true for Mehl herself-- after becoming the coordinator for the program at Evening Street and seeing how much trash could be diverted, she and her family started composting at home. The Zero Waste program is a beautiful blend of education and practice, allowing students to apply what they learn about in the classroom, teach their peers, and bring it out into the greater community.
So far in 2019, Evening Street Elementary has diverted over 5,000 lbs of compostable food waste from the landfill.