New Jersey Student's Composting Project is Transforming an Elementary School's Approach to Waste
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New Jersey Student's Composting Project is Transforming an Elementary School's Approach to Waste

The Climate Leaders Fellowship program teaches students about climate change and environmental sustainability, and guides them in designing and launching a volunteer project in their own communities.

The fellowship is offered as a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read about Taylor’s impactful experience below!

Taylor Helman
Age 17
Moorestown High School
Moorestown, New Jersey

Hi! My name is Taylor. I am 17 years old and am currently in Grade 11. I live in Moorestown,

New Jersey. I love traveling, playing soccer, learning music, and spending time in nature.

My love of nature started at a young age. Living equidistant from the coast and the mountains, I spent my summers at the beach and my winters on the slopes. Due to this, I found myself entranced by nature, but also with a great responsibility to try to respect and preserve the environment.

This fellowship guided me in creating a project addressing environmental waste, particularly food waste. In my years volunteering at an elementary school in my district, I found that many students throw out the vast majority of their lunch.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 24 percent of municipal waste is food; this is more than any other type of waste seen in landfills. Landfills hold upwards to 60 percent of food waste while composting only accounts for less than 5 percent. This is a real issue! These staggering statistics, and my own experiences, influenced me to start a composting project at my elementary school.

Delving deeper into composting, I found that with enough care and attention, it could be viable in a school setting. In line with my findings, I concluded that this composting system must consist of two steps: collecting food in the cafeteria and turning it into compost.

With this knowledge, my plan is to place composting bins in the cafeteria and a composting tumbler outside the school by the communal garden. With support from this fellowship and the school, I was able to present this proposal to the elementary school, and it was approved!

In addition to setting composting bins in the cafeteria, composting education will be introduced to students across the school. Through their teachers and my knowledge and research, students will learn about composting and its benefits.

Furthermore, once the compost has fully decomposed, it will be added to the school garden. Classes will have the opportunity to see first-hand the uses of compost and the fruits of their labor.

My plan will be implemented this coming school year. I look forward to seeing the students learn about the benefits of composting and the direct result of their efforts. I hope this project will create a long-sustaining knowledge of the environment and instill greener habits in our future generation.

The Climate Leaders Fellowship provided me with immense guidance and support. As I formed new connections with like-minded individuals, I found a new sense of courage and a platform to see my plans become reality.

With passionate people all over the world, this fellowship deepened my appreciation for the environment and my passion for conserving it. I enjoyed seeing other fellows’ plans evolve and come to life beyond the paper.

Moving forward, I am excited to continue working on my project and, hopefully, see it come to fruition and create a real difference in my community.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.