Commentary

A Student’s Perspective on Composting

by Sadie Aiello – Student at Nock Middle School
Published on
June 14, 2024
Contributors
Allies and Partners
City of Newburyport
The Daily News of Newburyport

This is one in a continuing series of educational columns about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

In Newburyport, we all share the goal to become a more sustainable community. The toughest part of doing this is to find out how everyone can do their part. In the city of Newburyport where we have over 2,150 students who unquestionably contribute to our town's carbon footprint, starting in schools is a logical way to involve our youth. In past years, the Newburyport School District worked on reducing waste by encouraging recycling, forming student-led Green Teams, and taking students on field trips about sustainability. Composting programs have been started in both the Bresnahan Elementary School and the Newburyport High School, which seems to also be a constructive step toward our common goal.

When I was tasked with the I am We project - a civic action project for grade 8 students to become engaged in local, state, and federal government - my interest went straight to doing something about sustainability.

As a student at Nock Middle School, it would be hard not to notice the overwhelming amount of waste we produce. There are trash cans in every room that are filled by the end of the day. Within the 8th grade, we fill almost three whole bins at lunchtime, and as a whole school we send five barrels of trash to the landfill EACH DAY. Landfills are the third largest source of human related methane emissions in the U.S. Methane emissions are harmful to our earth because methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

We have the power to reduce the amount of human methane emissions through composting.

                                                 Sadie Aiello, Cameron Grelle, Eva Moyles

However, I was keenly aware that the Nock and Molin schools do not actively compost, and I wanted to find out why and how to get my school community started. Serendipitously, there were already a few staff members in the district working towards this same goal. Over the course of the past couple months, my partner Cameron Grelle and I connected with staff members and collaborated to direct and design the Pilot Composting Program within the Molin School. The fourth grade was the ideal group to start this, as most of them have previous experience at the Bresnahan. First, we educated these students to inform them of how the program will work. This presentation included a guide to what can or cannot be composted and why. Students were given the option of participating and most chose to participate. 

The pilot program could not be launched without student and parent volunteers.

The Green Team teachers and staff coordinated with sixth-grade volunteers and recruited parents because we knew that having monitors is especially important while working with such young students. We trained the sixth-grade volunteers, making sure they knew what can be composted and how to help when fourth graders had questions. The program began to take shape on March 5th, and it is still going today. By the end of this program the fourth-grade lunch was saving about 28.4 lbs. of trash per day from going into landfills and diverted to composting. We see this program expanding as the fourth graders become fifth graders and the new third graders come to the Molin School.

We hope that all grades in the Molin and Nock Schools will eventually make composting a habit for lunchtime. However, as students, we have experienced firsthand how many pieces must go into making this program successful. We cannot jump start this in all grades yet because of the time, effort, and cooperation needed by all of us.

Additionally, it is critical that Newburyport School District create a policy supporting these practices.

This program not only showed clear waste reduction but also growth in the students' knowledge of composting. We hope students will share this knowledge with their parents and influence others to practice the waste reducing act of composting.

ACES and its Youth Corps invite you to stay updated on environmental matters by subscribing to our monthly newsletter via the “Subscribe to Updates” link on this page. Please consider joining our community of stewards who are committed to Make Every Day Earth Day by contacting us at acesnewburyport@gmail.com. We can make a big difference together.

This educational column first appeared in The Daily News of Newburyport on June 14, 2024.

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