The average American throws away 1,200 pounds of compostable material each year. Roughly, 230 plants could be nourished by compost made from this amount of waste. That’s just one of many mind-blowing statistics about the reality of food waste and growing landfills across the nation.
This week, CCES will kick off the new year with a compost program in partnership with Atlas Organics, following the lead of organizations such as The Greenville Health System, Michelin, and The University of South Carolina and resulting from steady advocacy on the part of 12th grade student Rhett Adams. Atlas Organics is a commercial and residential compost collection company that recycles food waste, turning it into a valuable soil amendment to promote sustainable agriculture and landscaping. Atlas Organics partners with DHEC to address food waste and waste education in our communities through the state program Don’t Waste Food SC.
This partnership is a win-win— in taking steps to positively address our waste and become more sustainable, we in turn receive not only economic benefits through decreased waste bills, but also social and environmental returns. None of which would have been possible without the persistent involvement of Rhett, and many other CCES players.
Last spring, CCES parent Brooke Reed reached out to Upper School Environmental Science Teacher Katherine Kramer about her involvement with Atlas Organics through her work with Anderson County Schools and the City of Greenville, suggesting it was worth a look. Mrs. Kramer set up a meeting with the education coordinator at Atlas, Leslie Rodgers, to discuss what a contract with them would entail and how they handle educating school communities new to mass composting. “The neat thing about Atlas,” said Mrs. Kramer, “is their program is able to compost all food and liquids (dairy and meat included) making it very easy for students of all ages to participate (just swipe all food into a bin, no sorting required)! Simultaneously, Rhett had the idea to initiate a composting program at CCES after studying a unit about compost in Mrs. Beckrich's IB Environmental Science class and had been researching compostable flatware in a self-driven effort to rid the cafeteria of plastics. Rhett had been trying to reach out to Atlas independently. She joined a subsequent meeting with Mrs. Kramer and Atlas and took the initiative to further research the financial investment to the school.
Rhett presented her findings to CCES Administration at the end of the 2017-18 school year. Her PowerPoint presentation outlined everything from the environmental cost of Styrofoam and lack of composting, to the support this composting program would have from the student body, and the potential cost to the school. Rhett had even called multiple compostable product companies to get bids and samples.
Her dream is becoming reality this week as waste bins are being delivered and each division (Lower, Middle, and Upper) is taking part in three consecutive days of lunch-time training with Atlas. “This would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of the teachers and administration surrounding me and their willingness to work hard to make this a success,” stated Rhett. “CCES is a special place because of the student-teacher relationship and the school's desire to work with students to make their ideas a success. I have been touched by not only how willing and hard working the school was to make my idea a reality, but that they were excited to do it.”
The Atlas Organics student-focused experience will also educate students on what it means to compost, why it’s important to feed the earth, how lunch will work every day, and what is THEIR part. During the lunch-time training days, Atlas Organics will be present in the cafeteria teaching our students how to compost food items and which items to compost.
CCES is immensely grateful to everyone involved in this important initiative and proud to invest in this vital program supporting nature and sustainability in every way. For more information on Residential Composting and how your family can make a difference, visit http://www.atlasorganics.net/.