School counselor William Peisner at Wellington Middle School (WMS) says faculty and students have always been proud that they were the first school in the district—and one of the first in the nation—to be awarded National Green Ribbon status by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012. The D.O.E. gives their award to schools that reduce environmental impacts and costs and provide their students with effective environmental and sustainability education. Part of that education involved getting students to recycle and compost the food and other products they use every day. Peisner and others at WMS felt that that educational goal was threatened when Gallegos Sanitation and the school district could no longer get together on a workable cost for providing those services.
So, when something like that happens, Peisner said, “Do you scrap the behavior you want to model, or do you solve the problem?” The school chose the latter.
Solving problems usually entails finding money to do it. The proposed solution involved composting their own waste, using equipment and materials estimated to cost about $40,000. Peisner, school principal Alicia Durand, and others began the process of filling out the paperwork necessary to secure grant money. Their first success came when Poudre School District Foundation awarded them an Innovation Grant of $20,000. The Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) organization “that ignites powerful learning opportunities that would not otherwise be financially possible.”
They kept searching for the additional money they needed. Their next breakthrough came when they received $10,000 from the Bohemian Foundation’s Pharos Fund Grant. “Pharos Fund supports organizations that are working to strengthen community,” said Sara Maranowicz, Bohemian Foundation’s Community Programs director. “Wellington Middle School identified a community need and provided a solution that engages students while also providing a service to neighboring schools. The composting system is a one-time purchase with a long-term impact.”
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WMS will use a composting unit called the BioSpeed M1. In one day, it can convert 35 gallons of food waste into 3.5 gallons of compost. According to Mary Timby, Communications Program Manager with the Bohemian Foundation, “Wellington projects they will divert 16 tons of organic waste from the landfill and prevent 13.8 tons of CO2 emissions annually by eliminating the need to transport compost materials to Denver.” That would seem to qualify as making a long-term impact.
Peisner expects that WMS will max out the capacity of the unit with their own waste, but they hope to share the technology and the educational opportunities with both Rice and Eyestone Elementary schools in Wellington.
Although still $10,000 short on their funding goals, Peisner feels confident they will be able to “piece together” the remaining funds they need from smaller grants and other school budgets. They hope to have their BioSpeed M1 up and running by sometime in April.