The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

East gets composting bins in the cafeteria

At third lunch on Jan. 30, sophomore Evelyn Carozza composts her leftover salad. Bellevue East started composting, the process of recycling food waste into soil, at the beginning of second semester. “Composting is good in general; it helps the environment,” Carozza said. Photo by Victoria Bogatz

A new compost program has arrived at Bellevue East in 2024 due to fund raisers by the environmental club Green Initiative.

Compost is the process of recycling organic matter like plant waste or food scraps into fertilizer. At Bellevue East, any food, paper, or plant waste can be composted. 

“For us, in an industrial compost, we can take any organic substance, so that’s any food, whether it’s meat, dairy, veggies, fruit, liquid,” Green Initiative sponsor Rachel Carraher said. “It just has to be from a formerly living source. So no plastic, no man-made products, essentially.”

Composting mirrors the organic decomposition that occurs in nature. The resulting fertilizer from compost contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, three nutrients essential for plant growth, and can be used on gardens and lawns.

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“Compost is basically organic material that is being broke back down to the soil… to be utilized to support new life growth,” Carraher said. “It is what living organisms have done for their entire existence, and the fact that we throw food into the trash works completely against the laws of nature. It’s something that we all should have been doing from all time in society.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food and garden waste makes up 28% of landfill waste. Organic waste that ends up in the landfill releases methane and carbon dioxide, gasses that contribute to climate change.

“If you ask around, ‘what happens to your food waste when it goes to the landfill?,’ there’s a lot of people who just kind of think it just turns into dirt and it doesn’t cause any problems… That’s actually not the case,” Director of Partnerships at Hillside Solutions Brent Crampton said. “What it does is like, a head of lettuce, can take 10-20 years to break down in the landfill. And in that time there’s anaerobic bacteria eating away at that head of lettuce… They put off gas and it’s damaging the planet and poisoning the air that we breathe.”

In the first week with both compost and recycling at East, 50% of lunch waste was diverted from the landfill. At that rate, East will compost approximately 18,000 pounds of food each year.

“[Compost] is easy to do. It’s good for the planet, and it doesn’t really bother me, so I like it,” freshman Noah Grout said. 

Green Initiative, which is shouldering the cost of composting, has worked to raise money through fund raisers and grants. Additionally, the club partnered with the local environmental organization Green Bellevue to raise funds.

“We propagated plants from the garden and got mug donations, and we sold those at craft fairs,” Carraher said. “We’ve also done concession sales. We’ve raised, between those two things, basically $4,000 to go towards our composting. I know that we’re partnering, though, with Green Bellevue, and they’ve been able to do some grant writing, and we’ve earned some funds in that regard.”

Bellevue West started their compost program this semester as well. The push for composting in Bellevue Public Schools originally began in 2020 with a Bellevue West FBLA project called “Revitalize.” Then, Green Initiative started working to bring compost to BPS.

“I also started working with the Green Initiative in 2021. Several members joined the Green Bellevue board and Chloe Zarp became committed to bringing composting to Bellevue East,” Ruth Richter, president of Green Bellevue, said. “Once it was known that Bellevue East was going to start composting, Sustain Bell West members were able to get approval to start composting at Bellevue West as well.”

Green Initiative is hoping to work with Hillside Solutions, the company that collects compost, to use compost in the indoor garden. The club also has future goals to move to compostable lunch trays, something that Green Bellevue estimates could divert up to 80% of lunch waste from the landfill. 

“When we started the club, one of our main goals was to bring composting in to just help mitigate our trash footprint,” Carraher said. “We know that we have styrofoam trays, and that’s a huge thing that we want to try to get past and move away from. But composting felt like the first step towards that. The big picture ideal situation is that it’s a full circle so that we take the compost… to create new soil, and then we get that back to continue to grow our garden and other things like that.”

According to the U.S. Composting Council, other benefits of using compost include decreased soil erosion, water conservation, and improved plant growth. Crampton said that the environmental impacts of compost often go unrecognized.

“I heard some comment, there was one kid… he’d kind of like snicker with his friends, ‘Yeah, man, we gotta save the turtles,’” Crampton said. “It’s not about saving the turtles. It’s actually about saving humanity.”

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About the Contributor
Victoria Bogatz, Entertainment Editor and Social Media Manager
Hi! My name is Victoria, and I’m the entertainment editor and social media manager for the Bellevue East Tom Tom. I love writing, running, playing piano, activism and food. Fun fact: My favorite color is purple.

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