ESSEX — Kenwood High School is the force behind a new composting program that is intended to be used in all Baltimore County Public Schools.
The goal of the program is to reduce the number of trash collection days for each school, which in turn manages financial resources dedicated to BCPS’ waste management and reduces the amount of waste that ends up in local landfills.
The process of composting would help reduce the amount of waste in landfills because through food scraps biodegrade and turn it into nutrient rich soil. This soil can then be used for gardening, mulch or any outdoor landscaping needs. Composting food can also reduce the amount of methane gas that is emitted into the atmosphere. A significant amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is emitted from food waste when it decomposes in landfills.
Kenwood High School is conducting the pilot program by having compost bins in the cafeteria. Students and staff use the bins at lunch when they dispose of their waste.
In addition to the compost bins, there are regular trash and recycling bins as well. The recyclable materials, which are papers and plastics, are sent to a facility, while food waste and compostable food serving trays, which are now used in all BCPS schools, are composted.
One of the masterminds behind this compost program is Ashby Gambrah, a junior at Kenwood High School.
Gambrah wanted to start an environmental club and composting program for her freshmen capstone project. She and Derek Woodward, a Kenwood High social studies teacher, were originally told there was a policy against composting in BCPS. As they investigated further, however, they discovered there was no such policy and proceeded with the program.
Now for the 2019-2020 school year, Kenwood High, along with Lyons Mill and Wellwood International elementary schools, are piloting composting for BCPS.
Gambrah’s efforts demonstrate that classroom projects can become the change we hope to see in the world.
“I hope I inspire people to express and share an idea, because you never know how you can make that idea a reality,” Gambrah said.
Woodward encouraged Gambrah’s idea of creating a club and the compost program. Through Woodward’s guidance, the Kenwood Environmental Network was born.
“My students convinced me to start an environmental club and by working and growing this club, I have become more environmentally literate and have decided that I need to do more at my school and in my home,” Woodward said.
This composting program also provides the school an opportunity to earn credits toward their Maryland Green School Certification by establishing a sustainable practice within their facility and increasing their efforts to reduce their impact on the surrounding natural environment.
BCPS hopes that by giving students the opportunity to learn how to compost their waste and the benefits of it, it will encourage them to take what they learn and share it in their own homes and future places of employment in order to build a more eco-friendly world for the future.