By Evan Newman
March 5, 2020
Atholton’s Green Team, formerly known as the STEAM Team, started a new program for composting at school to promote an eco-friendly focus in Atholton’s student body and faculty. On January 21, the first day of midterms, the program began with a compost bin in the cafeteria. The Green Team members stationed themselves near the bin to promote and monitor it.
“They got tired of people not recycling,” said Ms. Donna Schwab, a biology teacher at Atholton and the sponsor of the Green Team. “They wanted something they could control that would make a difference.”
Many people know the difference between trash and recycling, and recent surges in advocacy for individuals around the world to be more ecologically minded has promoted greater interest in recycling to leave a smaller carbon footprint. However, many may not know about a third option: composting. Composting, similar to recycling, is focused on reusing materials. However, in composting, you reuse organic matter from the natural decay of plants, bread, etc. instead of paper and cardboard. This decay produces nutrients that are beneficial to soil and promote better growth of crops. The Green Team hopes to use this process to better the gardens in Atholton and, on a larger scale, teach the students about the benefits of composting and how they could use it themselves.
Ms. Schwab said there would have to be “a lot of education” before the program would run smoothly. It will take time for the student body to adjust to putting their waste in the corresponding bin. To help students adapt, Senior Alex Oberle, Green Team president, said that the Green Team are running morning announcements and that posters are posted around the school to explain composting for all to see. In addition, the Green Team will collaborate with other clubs and groups to, according to Ms. Schwab, “reach more people.” The culinary class at Atholton, for example, will begin to use herbs that the Green Team plans to plant around the school using the compost.
Composting is not a new plan for the Green Team; it has been a long time coming, according to Ms. Schwab. Last year, members of the Green Team began to plan out the system and find what they could or could not do. Members talked about “where to put the compost outside, if [the Green Team] could get sawdust from the tech class, and how [the members] were going to tell the school about our new compost pile,” said Senior Michelle Curry, a member of the Green Team. The compost pile itself is located in a compost bin along the treeline outside the school.
The county, however, has not made any notions to install a countywide composting program for all schools. Right now, the extent of composting in Howard County is that certain neighborhoods have compost that is collected, just like trash or recycling. Additionally, other schools in the county, including Pointers Run Elementary, Clarksville Elementary and Middle, and River Hill High, have their own composting projects in partnership with the Howard County Environmental Services office that generate approximately 490 pounds of compost material daily from each school. However, Atholton will not be joining this partnership and the new initiative will operate domestically.
Athoton’s composting is still young, and there is more work for the Green Team to do before this program will be finished. However, they all are eager to see how it will work and hope that their composting initiative can improve the environmental mindset of Atholton as a whole. This program could change the way Atholton students see the environment and their role in it. As Curry said, “I want students to be more aware and proactive with what they do with their waste and what it can become.”