For the past several years, Tenacre has participated in Wellesley’s Food Waste Challenge, a project of the Wellesley Department of Public Works. This composting program engages sixth graders in a daily project that results in putting any food waste from Tenacre’s lunchroom to good use. After every lunch, fifth and sixth graders are responsible for clearing the tables and scraping any plates with leftover food into designated buckets in the lunchroom. Once everyone has been dismissed to lunch recess, sixth graders work in teams of two to tie up the bags of food scraps and put them in green bins located outside the lunchroom. Once a week, the Town of Wellesley picks up the bins and delivers them to a farm in western Massachusetts, where the food waste is put into an anaerobic digester. This machine breaks down the food into three components: gas, which is used to produce electricity; liquid, which is made into a “compost tea” to use as fertilizer; and a dry component, which is used as bedding for animals.
Food waste makes up about 40% of our landfills, emitting high levels of greenhouse gases and creating toxic leachates that end up in our waterways. Food waste is energy. Wasted food is wasted energy. One ton of food waste can power up to 10 homes with electricity.
In addition to gathering lunchroom waste, sixth graders are also responsible for gathering, on a daily basis, used coffee grounds and food scraps from the staff lounge and putting them in the green bins.
Science teacher Leah Staffier, who runs Tenacre’s composting project, believes that Tenacre’s participation in the Food Waste Challenge is important for the school and the students. “Our food waste isn't actually waste anymore with what we're doing. It’s getting converted into electricity, fertilizer, and bedding for animals,” Staffier said.
“The composting project also teaches sixth graders responsibility and that they can do more,” Staffier added. “They are leaders and role models, so it’s important for the younger students to see sixth graders taking this responsibility. This one little act at lunchtime makes a big difference, and they're doing it.”