MORRISVILLE, Vt. (CNS) — Earth Day 2017 will be observed throughout the world April 22, but for the students, faculty and staff at Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville in the Burlington Diocese, every school day is Earth Day.
That’s because they have taken seriously their responsibility to care for the earth and have, over the past couple of years, significantly increased their reduce, reuse and recycle efforts and added composting to those caring endeavors.
Two years ago, Bishop Marshall School conducted its first trash audit. “We safely sorted and weighed the cafeteria and kitchen trash as well as trash from three classrooms, separating food scraps, trash, compost items and recyclables. As you can imagine, this task was not fun, but it was necessary,” Heather Gentle, food services director, told Vermont Catholic, Burlington’s diocesan publication.
Only 1 percent of what was thrown away was recycled; nothing was composted.
“It was time for a new plan for the 2015-16 school year,” Gentle said. So with the help of the fifth-grade class, the school joined an environmental leadership opportunity for youth, the Teens Reaching Youth Team, through the 4-H Teen and Leadership Program and the regional solid waste management district.
Now all classrooms have compost and recycle bins and smaller trash baskets, and students are instructed in separating waste into compost, recycle and trash; older students help younger ones sort in the lunchroom.
The fourth- and fifth-graders take turns collecting the classroom compost bins and empty them into the main compost. They then rinse them and return them to classrooms.
Fifth-grader Augustine Wright, 10, said it can be unpleasant to scrape food out of the compost bin with his gloved hand, but he does it “because I’m helping the environment.”
The school no longer provides straws because they are a single use item that remains in the landfill and no longer sells plastic water bottles, thanks to a donation of two water fountains that fill reusable water bottles. Cafeteria trays are disposable and compostable.
All of these efforts would not be successful without “the complete cooperation of teachers and students,” said Carrie Wilson, head of school for the school of 137 students, prekindergarten through grade eight.
No audit has been done this year, but she said the school is “in a position” to rent only one of its two dumpsters for trash. “I want to give the project two years to be sure we have sustainable results.”
She said the new ways of disposing of waste are easy to implement; it just takes “retraining your brain” to sort rather than dump everything in the rubbish. “We’re trying to instill (in students) that habit of mindfulness.”
“This is something we want to be part of to help the environment be healthier,” said Maddy Ziminsky, 13, a seventh-grader. “Sometimes we teach our parents and can influence them to make good decisions” about composting and recycling.
As part of their religion and technology classes, seventh- and eighth-graders are creating an Earth Day video to show what the school has done to promote care of the earth and to serve as a guide for others. It will be available on the school website and at vermontcatholic.org.
“We are charged to be good stewards of the environment,” Wilson said. “We want to send our children into the world with a strong faith foundation to be good citizens and to take care of the world.”
Earth Day, celebrated in more than 193 countries, is observed annually April 22 to demonstrate and promote environmental awareness and call for the protection of the earth.