Cultivating Better Soil with Food Waste

HS teacher Amy Popovich gathered a team of HS students to conduct a food waste audit that led them to start the new MS/HS composting program.
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Composting is not new to the ISKL community. The Elementary School (ES) has a long history of composting their lunches and, last year, our HS students had an opportunity to work with and learn from former ES Teacher Librarian and ES Service Learning and Sustainability Coordinator, Suji DeHart, about the ES composting program. “At the end of the 2016-17 year, I got approved to buy the composter machine. The next year, we started bringing kids out to see it and talking about composting,” According to Suji, “When we moved into our new ISKL campus, the composter machine moved with us along with the ES composting program.”

Inspired by this effort, HS teacher Amy Popovich gathered a team of HS students to conduct a food waste audit that led them to start the new MS/HS composting program. “It has long been a discussion with the Service Council and Earth Club and now, given we what we know about the impact of rotting food waste in landfills, the time is right to start,” Amy said.

After conducting the food waste audit earlier this year, the High School (HS) sustainability teams learned that ISKL sends nearly 200kg of food waste to the landfill each day. According to an article in the Washington Post:

Food waste that decomposes in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Wasted food that is composted can be used as a fertilizer on cropland, improving soil health and productivity.” (Frischmann, 2018)

With this information, the teams are now working to reduce the amount of food waste generated and compost instead. In fact, if you venture into the Middle School (MS) and High School (HS) canteen you’ll see new signs on the trash cans, asking students to separate food waste from recyclable materials and other garbage.

In the ES, MS and HS canteens, a separate bin meant strictly for food waste is available along with the five other bins to help make composting and recycling more convenient for everyone. “What we really need parents, teachers, staff, and students to do is to read the signs and put their food waste, recyclables and regular trash in the correct containers,” said Amy Popovich, HS Service and Sustainability Coordinator.

Through the end of October and into November, ISKL will have MS and HS students on duty in their respective canteens at lunchtime to demonstrate how waste should be separated and thrown into the appropriate bins. Additionally, there are color-coded bins in various other locations around campus that are designated for recycling and other garbage:

If you’re in the MS/HS canteen after school or on the weekend, please be sure to put your leftover food into the bins marked Food Waste. Once the food waste is collected, it will then put into the composter which then converts food waste into compost in about 24 hours. The compost will be used around our school and in the HS rooftop garden. Please make sure the food waste does not contain any or other non-food items, otherwise the whole composting container will be contaminated and might break our composting machine.

Jen Hardie and Valeria Vieytes, our ES Sustainability Coordinators, have used this video by RecycleNow, a national recycling campaign in England, as part of a presentation to explain to Grade 1 students about composting food waste and how it works.

As for composting at home, if you have a garden there are some simple do-it-yourself activities to get you started. If you live in an apartment, ISKL is starting a composting program that you can sign up for but spaces are limited. For more details enquire in the Panther Hut or email Amy Popovich at [email protected].

We’re #ISKLproud of our ES students, MS leadership groups and the HS Earth Club, Gardening Club, and ByeByePlasticBagsKL Club for their amazing collaboration in striving to meet a shared goal – to reduce food waste by turning it into compost that contributes to healthier soil for plants.

For more information about our ES, MS and HS composting programs or to start your own home composting system, please contact Amy.

Remember, to combat climate change we need millions of people pitching in, not just one person doing it perfectly.


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