Ecology Club aims to enrich soil for gardens, reduce trash
CHELMSFORD, MA (Apr. 5, 2022) – There were a few quizzical looks from students as they approached the trash bins in the Chelmsford High School cafeteria on Thursday, Mar. 24 to find they could not simply empty their trays in one bin.
Instead, they were directed by members of the Ecology Club to deposit leftover food items in one bin to be composted, and other items, such as cutlery and plates, in the trash. For some students, the question was evident by their expression: Why are we doing this?
It’s a fair question.
Composting is the recycling of organic waste – such as leaves or food scraps – into valuable fertilizer. As a result, it enriches soil and plants. It is a process which an increasing number of households are embracing, with many Massachusetts municipalities also taking part.
The Mar. 24 effort was a one-day waste audit for the Ecology Club to gauge the amount of compost and trash CHS generates on a typical school lunch day. Underscoring the importance of such, members of the Chelmsford Department of Public Works were on hand to assist. The results will help the Club and the DPW form a comprehensive composting plan.
Since September, members of the club have been composting food scraps from the kitchen. Seniors Jennica Hamm and Josie Lee, the co-presidents of the Ecology Club, see no reason making CHS fully compostable should not gain traction. “What can be thrown away can be used for other purposes,” said Ms. Hamm. “We’ve already been composting from the kitchen scraps. After school we bring it outside to the bins. It’s been going so well that we want to expand it.”
Following lunch on Mar. 24, members of the Ecology Club and the DPW gathered to weigh the compost and the trash, which will give them an accurate ratio when searching for an outside vendor.
“This is the first step in taking the school to a full-fledged composting program,” said Dr. Somi Chowdhury, a chemistry teacher and the advisor to the Ecology Club. “We’ve started on a small scale with students picking up the kitchen scraps every day after school, but it’s not enough. We need every student on board. We’re very hopeful with the results we get.”
In addition to enriching soil, composting has many benefits according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
- Reduces trash: The average household’s trash is made up of 28 percent of organic matter. Separating the two would cut trash output by one-third.
- Less for the landfills: The result of households composting would significantly reduce what is placed in landfills.
- Less methane gas emissions: With organic matter out of landfills and composted, it is broken down by natural microorganisms, a process called aerobic decomposition, thus reducing methane gas emissions.
- Natural fertilizer: With fertilizer costs increasing, compost contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and on a lesser scale calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc – each of which gardens need.
- Conserves water: Compost-enriched soil retains more water.
“The compost we hope to create we would like to use for gardening, for flower beds and pollination,” said Ms. Hamm. “We’d like to give it to our other schools. It won’t be limited just to CHS.”
For more information on composting visit the Town of Chelmsford website.
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.