Sally Hofmans-Currie sees “how important it is for people to act individually to be environmentally responsible and how much difference an individual person can make.”

September 30, 2019
The Columbus Dispatch
By Alan Froman

Grandview Heights High School students who purchase their lunch at school use compostable food trays to carry their entrees and side dishes.

But the school’s cafeteria doesn’t have a convenient way for students to dispose of their trays and leftover food in an environmentally friendly way.

“You just throw your food away in the regular trash cans,” senior Sally Hofmans-Currie said.

Hofmans-Currie is coordinating a project that will change that.

Grandview Heights senior Sally Hofmans-Currie, 17, is working on a project to increase composting at the high school, with the hopes to expand into other schools later this school year. She is pictured Sept. 16 at the high school’s garden.

Through her efforts, three indoor composting bins soon will be placed in the cafeteria. Students will be encouraged to throw away their trays and food waste into the containers.

Composting the food waste will mean the material won’t find its way to the county landfill, Hofmans-Currie said.

“It’s not just nonbiodegradable materials that we need to reduce from going to the landfill,” she said. “Food items add to the methane that’s produced from the waste at landfills.”

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that heat up the earth’s atmosphere, causing climate change, Hofmans-Currie said.

A visit to her environmental-sciences class took last year to the SWACO landfill in Grove City gave her a close look at the accumulating waste material piling up at the facility.

“I’ve always been a ‘be a vegetarian,’ ‘recycling’ type of person,” said Hofmans-Currie, 17. “But taking environmental sciences really opened my eyes. It made me realize even more how important it is for people to act individually to be environmentally responsible and how much difference an individual person can make.”

After a presentation she made last month to Grandview Heights Schools’ wellness committee, the committee members gave their initial approval to provide funding to support Hofmans-Currie’s project.

The three compost trash containers will cost $51; curbside pickup of the food waste will run about $40 a month, she said.

Curbside pickup for the food waste will be arranged through Kids That Compost, a new group founded earlier this year by Grandview resident Mona Barber.

Kids That Compost contracts with Innovative Organics Recycling to provide the pickup service for businesses and schools and with the Compost Exchange for collection from residences, said Colleen Yuhn, the organization’s executive director.

The focus of Kids That Compost is to encourage and cultivate the practice of composting and recycling in students and offer assistance to schools to create or expand their composting programs, Yuhn said.

As a kickoff to its efforts over the summer, Kids That Compost has been working with student volunteers in several central Ohio communities, beginning with Grandview at the beginning of last summer.

The students canvass their friends and neighbors to educate them about composting and recruit households to take a bucket with a compostable liner and place the bucket on their curb once a week to be collected.

Other cities and neighborhoods with Kids That Compost volunteers include Upper Arlington, Victorian Village, Worthington, Olde Towne East, German Village, Clintonville and New Albany.

“We want to give kids a sense of ownership and for these composting projects to be kid-driven,” Yuhn said. “If a school gets a program started, we’d like to have a group of students coordinating it working with a champion, whether it’s a teacher or a principal.”

By getting youngsters involved in and thinking about composting and recycling at an early age, it will help set up a lifetime of Earth-friendly practices, she said.

Hofmans-Currie’s project is the first school-related effort Kids That Compost has connected with, Yuhn said.

“Her attention to detail and knowledge about the issue is really impressive,” she said.

Hofmans-Currie said she hopes to meet again with the wellness committee later this month and expects the composting containers to be installed in the high school cafeteria in November.

She is taking an Advanced Placement statistics class taught by Emily Meister and is working on compiling data about the amount of food waste generated at the high school.

The school has an open lunch policy, allowing students to leave campus and eat lunch at local restaurants.

Students who eat lunch outside of school will be able to bring the leftover food from their meals to school to place in the composting containers, Hofmans-Currie said.

If the project is successful, she said, her goal is to expand the program to Stevenson Elementary School and Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School later this school year.

Although food waste from Edison/Larson is placed in outdoor composting containers the high school garden club has set up in the garden adjacent to the middle school, the types of food that may be placed in them is limited, Hofmans-Currie said.

“You really can’t put in any food in an outdoor container, like meat, that might attract animals,” she said.

The advantage of an indoor container is that virtually any food item could be placed in them, Hofmans-Currie said.

She said she plans to major in sustainability design in college and pursue a career working to help developing countries establish environmentally friendly practices and programs.


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