Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Food (Waste) for Thought?

I could give next week the label of "ISKL Digester Week" but I'm not sure that anyone would relate to it very well. So instead, I will just make note of the fact that from October 29 to 31 our Melawati campus will be part of a new sustainable development.  By the end of next week we hope to welcome our very own composter!  How completely exciting, no?  I know what you're thinking right about now. "What in the world is a composter?"  It's a valid question. The answer might impress you.

The organization assisting us in setting up the digester, Drive Change, is one that works with a number of sustainable projects in the region. For this particular project we have been through two months of meetings, data collection (specifically with food waste at Melawati), design and now, finally, implementation. Once the digester is functional it will do the following:
  • Accept food and water waste from the Melawati Cafeteria - This will reduce Melawati waste by 9000 kg annually!
  • Go through a passive process of biogas generation from the food waste
  • Create biogas to be re-used in the kitchen for cooking
  • Create fertilizer for planting and gardening (we'll have plenty for everyone!)
But that's not all. The digester will also be used for on-the-spot teaching. The fifth grade students are currently covering a unit on energy and the digester allows a fortuitous teachable moment, so to speak. Our fifth graders will be given tours of the area not only when the digester is completed, but throughout the construction process. If a visit to Mrs. Williams' room on Tuesday was any indication, they will be thrilled to see how it works and what it looks like.  We are hoping the students will get to see the plans, look on as the construction takes place and, of course, recognize the benefits of the final result. 

I am not sure that the digester will be an impressive structure to look at. It may or may not make the Melawati campus tour "must see" list either. It's location (next to the compost site) might minimize the opportunity for the average campus stroller to run into it. But it will, none-the-less, be an excellent source of sustainable design. 

As the world continues to recognize the benefits of reduced consumption and waste patterns, it is important that our students not only talk about it, but have a tangible example to study and understand.  This isn't the kind of learning tool that you can leave in your closet. It's not the type of educational resource that you let gather dust. It's a functional, solution-based opportunity to let our students into little secrets with real life implications. What does it teach them? No, we don't need to generate waste just to be an excellent school. Not all waste is treated equally. We can do things - right here and now - to take care of this place. It is, after all, The Melawati Way.

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