Can Children Change The World – Yes they can

If everyone did this the world would be a better place.,0,5196889.story

Composting at schools: Students get into the act

In Oak Park, Villa Park and Naperville, students begin putting their food scraps in compost bins

November 3, 2009

When they’re done with lunch, students at an Oak Park school sort uneaten morsels into bins — empty milk cartons and juice boxes into one receptacle, orange rinds and banana peels into another, and anything non-recyclable into a third, that one clearly labeled “landfill” to drive home the point.

Hatch Elementary this year joined a national movement to reduce waste headed for landfills. Not only are students and teachers composting leftover fruits and vegetables, but they’re also promoting zero-waste lunches and moving away from plastic spoons, straws and biodegradable trays. Instead, the school is installing dishwashers and buying reusable trays and silverware.

After mastering — and then teaching their parents — how to recycle pop cans and paper, elementary school students are moving beyond Recycling 101 and into more sophisticated terrain.

Zero-waste initiatives at schools across the Chicago area have students aggressively reducing the garbage they produce and trying to avoid anything not biodegradable. Now they’re separating food, determining what can and can’t be composted. They do the composting themselves in outdoor bins or with worm composting in the classroom. They’re learning how to reuse paper towels and use fewer of them. And they’re no longer taking home endless fliers — many schools now post announcements online with “virtual backpacks.”

When a new state law goes into effect in January, expect some of these measures to become more mainstream. The law, passed in August, designates food scraps as organic — not waste — and will lead to widespread efforts to compost food waste.

It’s a skill the little ones have already adopted. At a recent lunch at Hatch, parent volunteers asked a question: “If you don’t eat all your broccoli, what do you do with it?”

“Compost” came the resounding answer.


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