Posted on

EcoWise: Elementary Schools Teach ABC’s of Composting

As the school year begins, Colonial School will become the second Pelham elementary school to start a composting program in its lunchroom. Siwanoy School began composting last year and is looking forward to building on its early success.

In so doing, both schools are teaching students a valuable lesson: that food waste doesn’t have to become trash. As it decomposes, it becomes enriched soil that helps new plants – and food – to grow.

Siwanoy implemented its program with guidance both from EcoPel and Greenacres School in Scarsdale, which began composting in 2013.

At Siwanoy, town meetings initially taught students the composting basics. But in the day-to-day, student volunteers instruct their peers during lunchtime to pour liquids into a special bin, separate out their food waste, and recycle the other materials.

This year, the school is looking to start composting of snacks in the classroom. “I think this is part of the world they’re growing up in,” said Siwanoy Principal Susan Gilbert “[The students] know that this is important to do. They have a sense of stewardship.”

Colonial plans a similar structure, with students in grades 1 to 5 applying to help others sort their lunch waste.  “When kids mentor kids, it’s always so great,” said Sydney MacInnis, founder of EcoPel, who worked closely with Siwanoy and the school district on the composting initiative.

Colonial Principal Tonya Wilson sees composting as a natural extension of existing school recycling activities, such as having kids use reusable water bottles and take food home if they don’t finish it. “We don’t produce a lot of garbage here,” she said.

The school composting initiatives come as the Village of Pelham has been exploring starting a community composting program for residents. You can read more about how that might work in the next EcoWise column.