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Teaching the Zero Waste Generation

By Larraine Roulston :

At no other time in history has it been more important than now to be green. In classrooms across the world, it has become the era when environmental stewardship is taught by encouraging waste-free lunches and emphasizing the 3Rs. At many schools, composting is on the agenda as well. In this particular endeavor, Hawaii’s Lanikai Elementary Charter School has taken the challenge to a whole new level. As shown in their 8-minute video linked below, students at Lanikai embrace the change by demonstrating that unwanted food is their greatest resource. Through the guidance of resource recovery specialist Mindy Jaffe, these students are on the path towards a zero waste revolution. Jaffe explains, “People are realizing that we just can’t continue dealing with waste the way we do. We talk about food, agriculture and security. Until you have good soil, you don’t have any of that. The food that is thrown away every day will create organic soil. This is absolute gold.” School Director, Ed Noh, states that we have to start somewhere, and that if we can get everyone to sort the rubbish from the food, then that’s a huge beginning. At first, custodian Jeff Mizuno had concerns with attempting to change a habit; however, when he saw how the program worked for the benefit of all, it didn’t take long before he became converted.

During the 2014-15 school year, the students’ efforts were second to none when 14,586 lbs. of food scraps were collected and processed on-site. Their video instructs how effortless it is to build a hot compost pile. To do so, simply lay a base of branches for air and drainage, followed by mulch that can be obtained from local tree trimmers and topped with a layer of unwanted lunch scraps. Keep alternating until about 1000 lbs. of food has been added. Poke a few holes to provide air flow, then cover it and let it decompose. In six months, a rich soil is ready to be screened by fourth graders.

Vermi composting is another great technology demonstrated in the video. Children of all ages love to work with the industrious red wiggler and Indian blue worms that consume 100% of the school’s paper waste as well as all prep waste from the kitchen. Second graders water the worms daily and assist with the semiannual vermicast harvest. Third graders are tapped to prepare bedding from discarded cardboard and to screen the finished castings. Creating compost is natural and safe. Once this becomes habit, it’s a great way to give back to the earth. Environmental education is not enough; it has to be practiced.

Take a moment to view this inspirational video. The joy of accomplishing something positive for their community is reflected in the faces of staff, educators and students alike. Their testimonials speak volumes.

It appears that, with the results of the recent U.S. election, environmental leadership from the top will be lost. It is therefore up to grassroots groups and individuals to take up the slack. In the words of American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Lanikai Charter School won the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge for K-12 schools and is #1 in the nation! The Zero Waste Revolution is a program of the O’ahu Resource Conservation and Development Council. To date, this video has received over 200,000 views.

Related Link:


The video is also posted on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXxcC_nTFD4


Larraine authors children’s books on composting and pollinating at www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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