Our annual waste audit revealed that there was still a significant amount of organic matter in our classroom and staff bins. We knew it was time to take action!
We looked at the current situation and investigated the system in place through discussion, taking a walk around the school, visiting the compost heap and talking to John our caretaker. We noticed that some classes weren’t sure what could go in the compost bin, and that the seniors had no fruit scrap buckets so weren’t sorting their organic waste from landfill waste.
John noted that the current compost system was not large enough to hold all of the organic waste our school produces so he was super keen for an improvement to the system. He is using the compost to fertilise the school gardens and to grow some veggies and fruit including pumpkins, potatoes, raspberries and strawberries. John also puts paper towels into the compost system, but we weren’t sure if they contain chemicals or not, i.e. bleached, so we definitely wanted to find out the answer to that!
We had a big brainstorm of things we’d like to change. The ideas we came up with were making signs, getting fruit scrap buckets for seniors as well as monitors, installing a compost bucket on the senior side of the school for the fruit scraps and organic waste, designing and making a bigger composting system to process all the organic waste, and a reward system for reinforcing the use of the organic food scraps bucket. We really liked the idea of a worm farm but thought we could save this action until we had a sturdy composting process in place.
We were feeling pretty excited about our ideas and planned an Action Day to create a school wide compost system.
The day of action was a bit rainy so we came prepared in raincoats and gumboots. We started with a trip to local Garden Club members Margaret and Rex Crook, based in Mawheraiti, to see what a successful compost system looks like. We were pretty impressed they’d prepared a full composting demonstration on how to layer different materials. They showed us different systems for composting, including an old mussel buoy repurposed into a tumbler composter. Margaret then let us have a dig around in her soil for insects. We found LOTS of worms. By this stage it was time to have a cup of milo and share our home baking with our hosts.
We were itching to get back to school and start on our projects. Our 20-minute drive home allowed us some time to process what we’d seen and learnt. When we arrived back at school we prioritised what needed to happen, broke into groups, and started putting a system into place: ensuring each class had a compost bin, making signage, working out a roster, writing and filming a skit to explain to the rest of the school how to compost, setting up pig bins for items that can’t be composted, and collaborating with the hard materials students to design and build a double bin system. We were really lucky we had Paige’s mum, Ms Hawes’ mum and Miss Purvis to support us.
West Coast Enviroschools facilitator Zoe Watson said, “The day was a huge success. The kids were really inspired by Margaret and Rex, and brimming with ideas to keep food scraps and green waste out of the rubbish bins and instead feeding the compost and soil. I was really impressed by their ideas for sharing their learning with their school and community.”
Kate Hawes, the lead teacher of Enviroschools at Reefton Area School, commented “We’re looking forward to seeing the reduction in landfill waste with the improvements to the compost system.”
Student, Paige Newbury, 11 years said, “We had a lot of fun and learnt heaps. My favourite part was making the signs for the compost bins.”
Year 13 Student, Chloe May Estoque said, “We had a lot of fun. It was action-packed – never a second where we did not do something. We learnt a lot of things, especially with composting. We have a strong team of Enviro Rangers this year and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us. We worked together so seamlessly as a team, I was really impressed, and to have Zoe spend the day with us was fantastic. I really loved it!”
Next we planned a special morning to launch our new system. We spent time finishing off our projects, and writing invitations for local people who have been involved, and other members of our community as a way to say thanks and to celebrate our new compost system. We couldn’t wait to do our next waste audit and see the changes our work has made!
When it was time to launch our project to the rest of the school, we were well prepared. The Enviro Rangers presented to both our junior and senior assembly and introduced our revised organic waste management system through a video and a demonstration.
Then we held a compost bin grand opening. It was a great event which the whole school community was present for, plus invited guests from the community. The Enviro Rangers once again were outstanding, sharing their action project in front of the whole school (using a megaphone too!) They each had a role – from making cups of tea and handing around plates of food through to reading out messages of support and thanking those who helped with the process. Kapa haka student Myah read the mihi to the family of Rangi and Papa, and then we invited our Garden Club mentors Mr and Mrs Crook up to cut the ribbon (they were voted for this role).
The event was a great way to acknowledge all the work and collaboration involved and celebrated the success of a student-led action project within our school community. It also gave the Enviro Rangers another opportunity to raise awareness regarding organic waste and how our school is processing organic waste. Having the compost bin physically closer to students allows us all to see and participate in the process of composting, and eventually (hopefully) the full cycle by using our compost to create gardens and grow and harvest food. Our caretaker Simon is keen to incorporate more projects into his programme next year so there is the potential for a fence, paths, raised garden beds and more. Now for the Enviro Rangers to decide on the direction that it takes and present their ideas to our Board of Trustees!