According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 30-40% of our food supply is wasted each year. A group of students at Joel Barlow High School has set out to reduce food waste in their community.
Barlow’s Eco Club, composed of members Sophie Brault, Victoria Cangialosi, Katherine Chan, Ashley Dhar, Isabella Dipreta, Leyli Ghavami, Catherine Gutowski, Grace Halloran, Ava Izzi, Julia Kreptzul, Tobias Manayath, Tate Tower, Corrina Voytek, and Lucy Walker, is planning a school-wide initiative to have students compost their food waste.
Eco Club began with the mission of “making Barlow green and raising awareness” said member Julia Kreptzul. This team has already led a successful cleanup of Jennings Beach last year to lessen local pollution. By selling reusable cutlery during the lunch waves as part of its Forkless Fridays initiative, the Eco Club was able to raise funds that it is now using to kick start its composting project, all while eliminating single-use plastics.
The club, along with advisor Dr. Katherine Nuzzo, Barlow chemistry teacher, plans to purchase composting bins and to encourage students to use them until it becomes second nature. By making colorful posters and informative flyers to hang on Barlow’s walls, the group will provide constant reminders to students not to throw away their leftover food from lunch. The hope is to advocate for composting until students are “motivated to create their own bins at home,” said Kreptzul.
“We have also spoken to the Mural Club before to do some painting in the cafeteria” to help promote composting, said Nuzzo. By collaborating with other students at Barlow, the group can raise even more awareness and inspire a greater impact.
Member Izzy Dipreta said “introducing kids to composting normalizes it…You are being educated on the subject in the perfect place.”
Getting almost 1,000 high-schoolers to compost their food waste during the chaotic lunch waves is a difficult task. Covid-19 poses an even greater challenge for Eco Club to overcome. The team is limited entirely to virtual meets.
“It hinders us in being able to make the products like posters,” said Nuzzo, “We used to do that in the room. You get tired of zooming.” All aspects of planning and designing graphics must be delegated online. Students must complete their part alone and at home.
Student Catie Gutowski said that remote meetings prevent them from “seeing the impact we are having. It has also made it harder to reach out to the student body.”
Aside from the limitations of Zoom, Eco Club members also miss the contact with each other. Kreptzul said, “I really enjoyed being able to see everyone. I always looked forward to it.”
Despite these setbacks, the students are persevering to accomplish their goal of helping the environment and engaging the student body.
“The main idea is to have people understand the impact they can make. We have a lot of power within our hands,” said Kreptzul.
The 14 members of this club have already made strides toward making Barlow more environmentally conscious. With the rest of the community open to composting, a completely eco-friendly high-school and town are within reach.
Photo at top: The Eco Club is limited to virtual meets at present but has made strides toward making Joel Barlow High School more environmentally conscious.