Michele Taylor, a teacher at Lake Cowichan Secondary School, is proud of what her and her Grade 8 students have accomplished with the S.T.A.R.4C. Raving Mad for the Environment exploratory program. STAR4C stands for Students Taking Action by Recycling, Reusing, Reducing, Refusing, and Composting.
Since September 2011, Taylor and her students have reduced the amount of waste sent by the school each day to the landfill from 45 bags to approximately 10 or 15. Breaking this number down, Taylor says that most of that is garbage from the bathrooms, which the students do not sort, plus approximately three quarters of one bag.
This means that if one assumes that the amount of garbage sent to the landfill in the 2010/2011 school year is typical, this year the students have reduced the amount of garbage, in weight, by two thirds.
Taylor says that at first the kids had to learn to deal with what she calls “the ick factor” but they are adapting. Taylor is passionate about the program and feels that it is important for the kids to be aware of, and responsible for, the waste they produce.
The class collects recyclables, garbage, and compost each day at around 1:15 p.m. They spend about 45 minutes sorting and washing each recyclable item and taking all compostable materials to the compost bins that are now set up at the back of the school. Everything is weighed in its separate category (recycle, compost, and garbage to the landfill) and this weight is recorded. These recorded statistics show that in Sept. 2011 they sent 72 kg to the landfill, and in March of 2012 they sent only 38 kg. “It’s amazing,” says Taylor. “It’s actually startling. I didn’t realize we would have that much effect. I thought it would be good, but I had no idea just how much of an impact our school would have.”
The other aspects to this program has been the construction of a greenhouse, a caged-in compost area, and approximately nine raised garden beds. The idea for the garden beds began when Bob Day approached the school with a proposal to apply for a grant. “Lake Cowichan would work with the school district in creating a community garden. From there we had three distinct areas of concentration.” These three areas are the greenhouse, the garden beds, and an environmental aspect to the school.
From that funding the school purchased graffiti free siding, Cowichan Valley Concrete donated cement, and Lake Cowichan Furniture and Appliance donated the cedar for the greenhouse. The Grade 9 and 10 students refurbished the greenhouse, which is currently being cleared of weeds and Taylor hopes there will soon be tables set up inside so that those who use the garden can also start seedlings.
The lumber for the raised beds was donated by Dogwood Lumber and Mountain Man. The school district built the compost cage and put up the fencing that surrounds the garden area. They also leveled and graveled the garden pathways.
Taylor says a shed has been built for the garden area, “it just hasn’t been put out there yet.” IRLY donated stain, cement blocks, and treated posts for the shed, and Cowichan Lake Timber donated all the siding and the roofing shingles. “So it’s really been a community effort.” The town donated funds to help with getting the greenhouse going and Parent Advisory Council funding allowed for the purchase of a chipper to break down compost materials.
It is not yet clear who will manage the garden space. However, Pat Foster, from Communities in Bloom, says there will be a meeting called in the near future, and all those who are interested are welcome to attend.