Healthy Schools: Composting at CCS

Posted by on Feb 20, 2019 | Comments Off on Healthy Schools: Composting at CCS

Healthy Schools: Composting at CCS

By Wendy Baucom, CSG Board Member

It’s easy to feel that one person can’t impact a big system, especially when you’re a kid.  And yet, thanks to Charlottesville City Schools’ commitment to using paper-based lunch trays and insuring they are delivered to a composting program, every city student will have the chance to participate in a daily small act that benefits the environment.

As all good City Schoolyard Gardeners know, all kinds of garden “scraps” can be composted.  Leaves, grass, stalks, and fruits and veggies that didn’t get picked in time (not to mention your apple cores and banana peels) can be collected in a pile or a bin.  If you have worms to add, all the better. Regular watering and turning will speed up the process in which nitrogen, carbon and oxygen turn organic materials into rich soil.  

This year, Charlottesville City Schools are joining the effort to put organic material in a compost program instead of a landfill.  Students at Venable, Jackson-Via, Clark, Greenbrier and Charlottesville High School are now putting their lunch trays in bins and tubs to be collected each week by Black Bear Composting.  Black Bear takes the trays to their 47-acre farm in Crimora, Virgina, in Augusta County, where time, elements, and worms turn scraps into finished compost, a humus-like material that greatly benefits regular gardening soil.  In the spring, students will be able to literally plow their efforts back into their own school gardens and enhance the nutrition and absorption of their soil.

The students in Clark’s Garden Club were excited to learn about composting and the role they can play.  Whether kids already have the chance to compost at home or not, now they all have a job to do, whether it’s remembering where to put their own tray or encouraging other kids at their lunch table to do the same.  (And yes, it’s also fun to talk about all the other things that die and turn back into dirt!)

While the elementary students have learned very quickly how to compost and why, special notice goes to high school students with the Green BACON Club, an after-school group interested in the intersection of engineering and the environment.  These students took the initiative to learn about the opportunity to compost and take on the project all on their own. They met with the school’s custodial staff to plan the process and signed up volunteers to educate and encourage fellow students to join their efforts.  When the time comes to extend composting to Walker and Buford, these students will have experience and advice to share with younger students.

Special thanks is due to Carlton Jones, the nutrition director of Charlottesville Schools.  He made the case to the School Board that composting brings benefits to our environment and is the right thing to do.  The result is that lunch trays from every city school will be composted, hopefully by the end of this school year. Best of all, students of every age can see that a small effort on their part, stacking the trays instead of dumping them, can have a big impact.