During the 2016/2017 school year, I (Allison Carter) took AP Environmental Science as one of my courses at Barnstable High School and when we finished the curriculum and AP exam my teacher challenged us. There were only six lone survivors after the seniors left, including me. When I asked “Mr. Gorrill, what are we going to do for the rest of the year now?”, he thought for a second and simply said, “do a project.” No expectations, guidelines, or specifications left us lost in thought, years of being told what to do in every class had provided us with few opportunities to fully exercise our creativity.
Somehow and from someone, the word compost emerged, from there we tried to find ideas and concepts that would allow us to implement a compost system in our school. Mr. Gorrill then told us he heard that Cape Cod Challenger Club was looking to purchase a compost machine so one of my peers sent an email to Kelvin Ing. We met with Kelvin Ing and Andrew Todoroff from Cape Cod Challenger Club, their non-profit organization provides athletic and social opportunities for people with special needs and/or disabilities. They are based out of Cape Cod Collaborative and have recently started a gardening program that provides the students with fresh fruits, vegetables, as well as agriculture knowledge. Kelvin has relied on grants to allow him to run Cape Cod Challenger Club, the free program that is beneficial to many local individuals and families, and now he is looking for a source of revenue that is environmentally friendly. The Ecovim machine rapidly decomposes and ferments the food waste to produce a soil amendment and potable water in less than 24 hours. Barnstable High School is the largest school on Cape Cod so when we went to calculate the mass of all the food waste produced in a day we knew it would be overwhelming. After having pasta and salads tossed at us by students with atrocious aim, we collected a total of approximately 150 pounds of food waste after two hours. Considering the school was not functioning at full capacity along with other factors, it is expected the machine will reduce Barnstable High’s waste production by approximately 1,000 pounds per week. That adds up! I watched youtube videos to see how the machine works and let me tell you I was instantaneously intrigued and fascinated. The job of the lone survivors would be to do the “dirty work” as they called it, to collect data and educate ourselves, to contact necessary people and set up meetings to get the ball rolling. I created an outline for the action plan for our project and submitted it to the principal Mr. Patrick Clark, with his approval we then moved forwards. I met with the director of facilities and food services to discuss the possible location placement of the machine, and the necessary electrical hookups. We found the perfect area, a spot right next to the loading dock (for easy removal and transportation of the soil amendment and drainage of the water) with access for the electrician to install the necessary lines. Students talked to Mrs. Spence and other educators from the special education department to come up with a game plan for the 2017/2018 school year and foreseeable future. Students with special needs are going to work in groups with mainstream high school students around lunch time to process the collected food from students, put it in the machine and turn it on. The students with special needs will meet new friends, gain knowledge on the machinery and importance of recycling, healthy habits, and a sustainable culture as well gain social and work skills. In the process of forming connections and learning, I reached out to Mr. Fitzgerald from M.I.T.'s sustainability department at the Endicott House to learn about their use and success with the Ecovim machine and he spoke highly of their experience. There have been no issues with the machine itself, and he claimed the soil amendment was miraculous when he used only a little on his own property as if it were a fertilizer. Mr. Fitzgerald also plays an instrumental role in Challenger Club’s purchasing of the machine. After several meetings with Fitz-Mont Environment Solutions, the machine has been ordered and action plan established.
This collaboration between Barnstable High School, Cape Cod Challenger Club, MIT and Fitz-Mont Environmental Solutions will benefit all the students as well the school and our region. This solution to reduce one school’s waste and turn it into something usable while incorporating the student body to maximize the educational opportunities is a path we hope other choose to embark on.