Mason-Rice Green Team

Food Waste Diversion Program at Mason-Rice

Original post from the Green Cart Chronicle  – 

April 9, 2020

In February, Mason-Rice Elementary School launched a food waste diversion program in its cafeteria. Mason-Rice is the third school to incorporate food waste diversion, joining Angier and Zervas where similar programs started last year. Special thanks to Mason-Rice Principal Jake Bultema and several parents, including Heather Friedman and Wendy Sheu for bringing this composting program to life. The food waste will be picked up at Mason-Rice twice weekly by Black Earth Compost. Check out the video that the Mason-Rice Green Team made that explains how this new waste stream functions in the school cafeteria. School recycling and food waste diversion programs are being coordinated by Newton DPW on a voluntary basis. Interested in knowing more? Contact Erica with Newton DPW at [email protected]

Food waste makes up 26% of the weight of trash collected in Massachusetts. That not only fills landfills, but also costs us a lot of money in waste disposal fees. Instead of throwing food waste in the trash, composting turns leftover food back into a soil amendment to grow more food.

Click on the image to watch the video:

Mason-Rice Lunchtime Compost Guide

School Gardening and Composting Resources

Original post from The Green Team News – 

Even though schools are closed, the seasons continue to change and Spring has emerged in Massachusetts with crocuses and snowdrops. Gardening is a great way to engage students in spring activities, and THE GREEN TEAM has identified many resources for school gardens that can also be adapted for use at home. The GREEN TEAM website provides a number of different resources for teaching students about gardening and food waste reduction, including the How to Compost at School instructional video. Other resources include:

Composting at Mason-Rice

Original post from the Mayor’s Update – 
 
By Mayor Ruthanne Fuller,  Feb 28, 2020
 
Mason-Rice Elementary School this week launched a food waste composting program in its cafeteria. Mason-Rice is the third school with composting, joining Angier and Zervas where similar programs started last year.
 
Special thanks to Mason-Rice Principal Jake Bultema and several parents, including Heather Friedman and Wendy Sheu, and our Newton Department of Public Works for bringing composting to another school.
 
The food waste will be picked up at Mason-Rice twice weekly by Black Earth Compost. School recycling and food waste diversion programs are being coordinated by Newton DPW on a voluntary basis. Interested in knowing more? Contact Erica with Newton DPW at [email protected]
 
Leftover food and food waste thrown in the garbage make up 26 percent of the weight of trash collected in Massachusetts. That not only fills landfills, it costs us a lot of money in waste disposal fees. Instead of throwing food waste in the trash, composting turns leftover food back into soil to grow more food.
 
Interested in composting at your own home? You can purchase a bin for your backyard through the City for $25 here.
 
You can also sign up with Black Earth Composting for curbside food waste collection. Black Earth Compost, the City-vetted company residents can sign with for curbside collection, costs Newtonians $59.99 for six months, plus a one-time start-up fee of $34 to pay for a 13-gallon lockable bin. Black Earth Compost will collect your food waste once a week at the curb on the same collection day as your trash/recycling. Get more information about composting and Black Earth Compost at blackearthcompost.com.​
 
Stay tuned for more news on bringing your food waste for composting at the City of Newton Resource Recovery Center on Rumford Avenue. We expect this program to be up and running in the next few months.

Our Neighbors: “Westwood elementary schools launch lunchroom composting”

Original post from Wicked Local – 

By Westwood Public Schools, Dec 4, 2019. 

This fall, elementary schools in Westwood instituted a new lunchroom composting program with a plan to eventually expand district-wide. It was not the brainchild of any administrator, teacher or parent. The idea came from a group of students in Catherine Starsiak’s second-grade class at the Sheehan School.

“They did a lot of research about what happens to things when you throw them in the trash,” said Kate Doyle, the elementary science coordinator for the Westwood Schools. “They looked at landfills and recycling programs and wanted to know if there was a better way to manage it. They decided to focus on composting.”

Composting was first introduced into the curriculum when Massachusetts made it part of statewide science standards in 2016. As Sheehan students were learning about it last year, many realized they were already composting at home. They all decided they wanted to do more.

Starsiak, Doyle and science specialist Karlyn Lazazzero worked with the students to develop the project. It required them to appeal to stakeholders in the district and, in doing so, they eventually won a grant from the Foundation for Westwood Education. The money has allowed them to fund composting in all five schools for this academic year.

“We’re starting it up one school at a time because we’re using it as an opportunity to teach kids more about renewability,” said Doyle. “We’re talking about the idea of reduce, reuse and recycle and all the things that are really embedded in the science curriculum. It’s also a chance to learn about simply being a good citizen of the planet.”

At present, three schools in the district have fully implemented the composting system. They hope to be in all five before winter break.

The process is fairly simple, Doyle explained. Rather than simply having one large trash can into which all waste goes, students are now taught how to separate everything at the end of their lunch period. Liquids are emptied into a bucket and eventually down the drain. Leftover food or any organic material is put into a compost bucket. Plastic or paper that can be recycled is put into a recycle bin. Any remaining trash is put in the trash barrel. As part of the program, lunch trays are now made from compostable material. Once a week, the collection of compost is picked up by a service that will eventually return soil back to the school.

“Come the spring, we’ll start getting that compost back and we’ll be able to use it to grow things in our outdoor learning centers throughout the district,” Doyle said.

Now third-graders, the students behind the program are still playing a role in the project. As part of the staggered rollout, they are working with students in other schools, helping them become “compost ambassadors.” Their job is to help everyone sort properly and answer any questions about the process.

The students are also collecting data on the entire program. By monitoring how much renewable waste has been diverted from landfills, they will be able to present the information as part of the effort to get their original grant extended. The eventual goal is to have composting both become a permanent part of the budget and be expanded to the entire district.

“This is a really great example of the idea of ‘think globally, act locally.’ We hope to show that by managing the waste stream in a different way, it may help save the earth, but it will also save money,” Doyle said. “When we dump trash we get charged by the weight of it. By separating these streams, we’ve already seen that weight go down significantly. This is good for the health of the planet, but it’s also really good for the bottom line.”

Our Neighbors: “Composting becomes commonplace in Acton-Boxborough schools”

Original post from The Boston Globe – 

By Ysabelle Kempe

A handful of students gathered around a large heap of trash generated by that day’s lunch period at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. They sorted through the rubbish, either with glove-clad hands or long trash claws.

When the group stepped back two hours later to survey their work, they were dismayed: A full 87 percent of what had been thrown out could have been recycled or composted.

Since that discovery in 2011, waste has been seriously reduced in the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. The district committed to a sustainability policy in 2017, and all schools now compost and recycle in their lunch rooms. In addition, the district switched from styrofoam to compostable plates.

“It’s part of the shift to look for a zero-waste goal,” said Kate Crosby, the school district’s energy manager. “It’s a goal that a lot of colleges are talking about. We are happy to be a K-12 school district talking about it as well.”

Every school in the district now has three bins in the cafeteria — one for recycling, one for compost, and one for trash. At Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, daily lunchtime waste has been reduced from 40 bags to six.

The district has been moving toward low-waste goals for about seven years now. Kerin Crockett, a fifth-grade teacher involved in the initiative at Blanchard Memorial School, said the first step was understanding how much waste could be funneled elsewhere.

“It is important that other schools realize what is being created in their cafeterias,” Crockett said. “If you can embrace the mess of it, you can sort out your food, and that’s huge.”

The initiative didn’t face any pushback from the community, Crosby said. Since the system went into effect, she has received calls from eight other school districts searching for advice on implementing programs of their own.

 

The advice she provides is simple: Just make sure you have support from school leaders and students. That includes working with student-run “Green Teams,” clubs that champion environmental causes.

Students “have to have buy in,” Crockett said. “What we saw happen with our recycling program was nobody knew where that went. They assumed the recycle fairies came at night, and it was just gone.”

Education, both peer-to-peer and teacher-to-student, has played a large role in implementing the program. Students created signs for the separate barrels. Older students were tasked with teaching younger ones how to sort.

Crosby said sorting trash has become normalized across all schools, but other compost experts report that it is simpler to implement changes in younger grades.

Conor Miller is the founder of Black Earth Compost, the company that picks up bins from Blanchard Memorial School. Miller and his team love getting elementary schools set up with compost systems because the young children are enthusiastic and determined. However, Black Earth doesn’t have the same level of enthusiasm for servicing high schools.

“They’re not as interested in it, and they have contamination problems,” Miller said. “They’ll put plastic wrappers in their paper lunch bags and throw it out. I would encourage other districts to start with elementary schools.”

Miller calls his compost the “best in the state,” admitting he might be biased. But he does boast that the mixture is nutrient-heavy, due to the large amount of food waste Black Earth has access to.

 

Changing the system takes a considerable amount of time and effort, Crosby said, but was cost-neutral for the school district. Although a compostable plate costs more than double that of a styrofoam plate, the district saves money on reduced trash pickup.

While cost is important, district educators see the system as a worthy investment. The effects of a more sustainable cafeteria have already begun to spread — many students are embracing sorting and some have begun composting at home.

“What I want them to get out of fifth grade science is that they can take care of the planet in their tiny world and in the big picture,” Crockett said. “They are going to inherit a planet that needs care.”

Ysabelle Kempe can be reached at [email protected].

Smash Your Halloween Pumpkin: It Will Be Composted

From Newton Recycling – 

Smash It – And donate your Treats to Troops

Want to start composting and have some fun? Start with your Halloween pumpkin – don’t trash it, come with the whole family and smash it. All smashed pumpkins will be composted. By composting your pumpkin, you are reducing waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating a valuable amendment for our soils. 

You can also donate your leftover Halloween candy to Treats for Troops to let our deployed service members feel connected to home.

Bring your pumpkin and candy to the War Memorial Circle behind City Hall, 1000 Commonwealth Ave. on Nov. 2, the Saturday after Halloween, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and have some fun smashing it before it goes off to the compost pile and becomes dirt to grow next year’s patch.

More information here: Newton’s First Pumpkin Smash