Last week marked one month since Liz Florez’ fourth-grade class launched a new composting program in the Cascade View cafeteria.  Her class helps students sort materials and place napkins and uneaten food scraps, like banana peels, in special green cafeteria bins provided by the City of Tukwila. Since the program started, students have been able to keep more than 1,000 gallons of food scraps out of the landfill! Scraps are picked up and trucked to our local composting facility, Cedar Grove Composting. In just eight weeks, food scraps are turned into compost. Compost is a valuable soil amendment that is used locally on landscapes. This keeps food out of the landfill and turns it into something we can use to grow more plants—continuing the healthy, green cycle.

Cascade View is the first Tukwila school to participate in this program, and Mayor Allan Ekberg recently recognized these green-minded students’ achievements with special certificates.

“I am SO PROUD of my fourth graders,” said Ms. Florez. “They learned about food composting, helped to implement a school-wide program, and earned ‘Environmental Champion’ certificates!”

This project actually started with Florez’ fourth-graders last year (now fifth-graders), who were shocked and saddened by how many Americans throw away perfectly good food after reading about food waste in in “Scholastic News.”

“In many of their families’ cultures, wasting food is unheard of,” Florez said.

Her students then met with Food Services staff to learn more about their school and the Tukwila School District work to feed students and prevent waste. Her current students picked up on the former class’ activism, and they started investigating composting.

“Students learned about how decomposers turn plant and food waste into compost,” Florez said. “They read articles about how lots of food ends up in landfills and decomposes slowly, releasing lots of methane gas into the environment. We had some class discussions and tried to figure out how they could make small differences at home or in the school, so there would be less waste, healthier air, and compost to grow new plants…”

With the help of Principal Jeff Baker and Sam Wilder in the City of Tukwila, the school-wide composting plan came together. Custodian Ivan Kistol was also instrumental, and long on patience, helping students learn to sort their lunch leftovers.

Looking forward, students and staff have been asking how they can do even more to keep food waste out of landfills. There may be interest in work bins, gardening, and other projects.

“We’ll see where their imaginations take us next!” said Florez.

Go green!