The Department of Sanitation has started a pilot program collecting compost from several downtown schools, including PS 89 and PS 234. Part of the huge importance of the program is that if it is successful, it will go city-wide. While PS 150 is not on board yet, Jenny gave me permission to try and get at least one class at PS 150 on the road to being green.
None of it would be possible if the amazing people at PS 89 (the school earned an award this year from the Borough President for its environmental activism) were not so generous in letting me take up a bit of space in their compost bins. These are brown bins put out on the sidewalk after school and collected by the sanitation department every day around 4.00pm.
I started out going into the class at lunchtime. I explained the importance of composting — that organic refuse in landfills create methane, which is one of the leading contributors to global warming. The children all had many ideas to contribute about why composting and recycling are important. Regarding the latter issue of recycling, we realized that it was not being done very carefully in the classroom, so while the children learned where to put their food scraps and tissues, they also became more diligent about putting their recycling in the proper bin. Ideally, once our school transitions away from using Styrofoam trays in favor of compostable ones, the garbage bins in the classroom will be the smallest, filled only with non-rigid plastic, and the compost and recycling bins will be the largest.
While my toddler adored going into her sister’s class to steal her crusts and flirt with her classmates, it become unfeasible to continue the lunchtime routine, so now our devoted eco-3rd graders bring down the compost bin every afternoon for me to take to PS 89, which is on my way home. Becca, Christina, and especially our bright-eyed kids have been so open and cooperative, and things are going well.
The impetus to start this came from Shakira Provasoli of WHAM, Jason Czarnezki, and a group of us parents interested in the issue. All schools will be obligated to compost within the next couple of years, but there is the chance of asking the Department of Sanitation if we can hop on the bandwagon early (especially since the wagon already passes through our neighborhood on the way to PS 234). The effort put into composting goes hand in hand with the effort to recycle, and once the kids have gotten the hang of separating their waste effectively, the amount of garbage in the end is reduced.
In the meantime, the third graders are serious about their compost (even conscientiously fishing out mistaken bits of plastic classmates have inadvertently tossed in), and are hopefully putting thought into how to create less waste generally—reusable bags and containers for those with home lunch, for example. Becca and Christina are to be commended for being so wonderful in helping the third graders keep organized with this effort. And the kids themselves are doing “G.R.E.A.T.” by their planet.