School Composting and School Yard Wildlife Projects....
A Natural Partnership By: Barbara Fiedler
For those coordinators that are up to (yet another) challenge, try getting your school system to institute a composting program to enhance their recycling program. Several years ago I approached our Superintendent with the idea of re-routing cafeteria food waste from the dumpster to a pic farmer. After a 2 month test period, they decided that this was not for them. Health issues were sited because of the extended time that it took the chosen farmer to collect the waste. Not one to give up easily, I opened a dialog with the school nutritionish (who I happened to know was a composting advocate.) Together, we asked for approval for composters to be placed at each school site. The initial plan called for only kitchen prep scraps to be captured; eventually expanding the program to lunch leftovers.
The School Board approved the purchase of several Earth Machine Composters that would be placed near the cafeteria doors of each school. I recruited the help of the science coordinators for each school to decide which students would participate in maintaining the composters. Shortly thereafter, I began to receive calls from teachers that were interested in composting in the classroom via worm bins. I also supplied the interested teachers with activity ideas based around the compost program, which were to be incorporated into their soils curriculum.
The creation of school yard wildlife-friendly areas was a natural succession to the composting project. Most school yards consist of black topped areas with gravel fill in-between. Students, teachers and administration all seemed fascinated with the notion that nay of this barren property could actually support native wildlife as it once had. In fact, we proved that it could easily be done with small funding sources, donations and time.
Enriching the soil with compost and planting native shrubs and plants provided "oasis" areas for wildlife to seek cover and food. It has also opened upa world of outdoor hands-on learning that is new and exciting for all who participate.
Here is a list of basic steps to follow if you are interested inworking on such a project:
- Talk to your school superintendent and school board before you do anything else.
- Explore funding sources: public and private grants, PTA, parent/business donations
- Even if the board approved, you will need the support and cooperation of other personnel within the school system: science coordinator, key teachers, kitchen staff and maintenance staff. Having even one of these players working against you could be the downfall of the program.
- Expand the "team" to parents and local businesses. Their donations of time, money, equipment, etc. are crucial to minimize the amount of actual cash that has to be raised through grants.
- Do a site inventory of each school yard. Look for signs of existing wildlife and docuemtn the plants, water sources, etc. that are already present.
- Plan placement of the composters and the garden, keeping in mind that both should be accessible to the kitchen and a water source. A sunny spot should be chosen for the garden, especially if you are inviting butterflies to your site.
- The children should be involved from the very first planning stages. The more time and effort that they are allowed to give, the more ownership they will have for the project.
- Before breaking ground for any garden, have the site marked by utility companies for existing underground wires, pipes, etc. (This is the law).
- Make sure you have a summer maintenance program in place.
- Consider starting the garden in the fall by preparing the ground by spreading compost and tilling. The winter months should be used for planning: What types of wildlife do you want to encouage? What plants should be planted to support that wildlife? What will it look like?
- Composting can begin anytime of the year. Properly maintained, there should be finished compost to spread in the late Spring and late Fall.
- Plant gardens in early spring as soon as danger of frost is over.
- Watch, listen, learn and enjoy!
Visit your County to see if there is a compost demonstration site to visit. http://njaes.rutgers.edu/county/
NJDEP SEEDS Environmental Education Program http://www.state.nj.us/dep/seeds/sect4.htm
LASER CARTRIDGE RECYCLING PROGRAM:
Laser Save, a twenty year old remanufacturer of laser printer cartridges has a novel school recycling program for empty laser printer, ink jet and fax toner cartridges from all HP, Canon and most other major manufacturers by soliciting the help of students and their parents.
Laser Save pays the school $1.00 for each included empty cartridge it receives. The money typically goes to the environmental club, PTA/PTO or other school activity. The money in turn can be used to purchase much needed supplies, computer equipment or other items for worthwhile programs. It becomes a WIN/WIN situation.
One administrator indicated that "it is a no brainer" another asked what we haven’t told him since "he couldn’t find anything wrong with the program."
Laser Save remanufactures the cartridges for reuse, saving companies and individuals 30% or more. "Quality is equal to that of the original cartridge and can even improve output," says Alan Yoss, President of Laser Save. So as not to diminish the program for the school, if a parent’s company or others develop a direct relationship with Laser Save as a result of the school’s efforts, Laser Save will still pay the school the $1.00 on the sale of each toner cartridge.
It’s a valuable program, not only because of the environmental concerns, but because it shows school children that saving the environment can be fun…and profitable.
It is estimated that in the United States alone, nine months worth of cartridges uses enough oil in the making of the plastic as was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
For more information on how your school system or office can achieve similar benefits, please contact Howard Topal at LASER SAVE (732) 431-3339.