The increasing desperation of warnings that describe the increasing global warming rate, unsustainable farming practices, and overflowing landfills emitting hazardous pollutants calls for action. The three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) have been central in the platform to reduce waste and limit the harmful impact we are having on our planet. Schools are central and targetable sites of waste, as implementation of methods to reduce waste educates kids and is able to reduce the waste of a large number of people all in one place. Significant reduction of landfill inputs from schools (which are a concentrated source of food waste) can be achieved by the implementation of composting wherever possible, and this causes a decrease in pollutant emissions (therefore less global warming), improves the soil and agricultural yield (lessening the amount of chemical fertilizers and pesticides used), and reduces soil degradation, bringing nutrients back to the earth and allowing the school to be more ecofriendly and reduce waste generation significantly.
The necessity of recent growth in the compost movement is due to the immense damage done by humans to the Earth through industrialization and increased landfill, increased population, emissions, and unsustainable and harmful practices developed during the green revolution that make the switch back to more sustainable methods necessary. Recent data has shown that America is losing/wasting up to 40% of its food to landfill, yet only 4.8% of food scraps are composted. And considering that the U.S. generates roughly 164 million tons of garbage per year (with almost 40% of that number being compostable), our laziness and lack of awareness and initiative to compost is filling up our already overfilled landfills and contributing to topsoil erosion.
So for those who say that “composting isn’t worth the effort” or that gas needed for transportation in larger scale composting operations outweighs any benefits gained, composting provides a huge number of environmental and economic benefits that prove that it is a beneficial and necessary step for us to take in living more sustainably. Compost not only improves topsoil and plant health (reducing erosion), but also improves water retention (therefore reducing water usage), recycles nutrients, lessons landfill inputs (therefore greatly decreasing methane emissions that cause global warming), and also saves money on tipping fees and creates many new jobs.
Many communities are locked in a cycle of waste and continued environmental degradation, and though Friends Academy has implemented a level of composting (a bucket/day for the garden and yard trimmings being mixed for topsoil), we still continue to produce a large amount of organic waste. We are a huge part of the problem, a contributing factor to a future of unfarmable land, global warming, and continuous chemical fertilizer use. We as a community can do more to make a change. Considering that we are a large population of individuals who eat in a central area and dispose of things in the same place, the implementation of a more rigorous composting program could reduce huge amounts of waste all in one go.
Actions to further implement a larger capacity composting system at Friends include creating a financial proposal with administrators and trustees outlining all costs, benefits, locations, and workings of a composting system. Money can be raised from donations, bake sales, and other fundraisers in order to generate enough funds to purchase a composting system that is approved by the grounds head and administration. Horizontal bioreactors are one of the many feasible options for a composting system at Friends, as they are meant for one-site community composting such as in schools and restaurants (suited to a maximum capacity of 20,000 pounds per day of source separated organics). In conclusion, though we have taken several steps to become a greener school, they are not enough. We still continue to direct almost all of our organic waste into landfills, when this is something we could change and be substantially greener. So next time you go to throw away half your lunch, think about that, and maybe take only what you can eat. We can start by wasting less food, and the food we do waste, we can hopefully eventually compost.