Amid the tables and chairs inside Joel Barlow’s High School’s cafeteria are several large red bins labeled with acceptable composting items and posters on the walls explaining why composting is important.

“Having composting bins helps students compost their fruits, vegetables, breads and paper products,” said Barlow student Catie Gutowski. “We’re hoping to reduce some of the food waste through our program.”  

Gutowski and Tobias Manayath, members of the high school’s ECO club, are leading the composting effort at Joel Barlow High School. 

Barlow ECO Club student leaders, Tobias Manayath and Catie Gutowski.

The club meets once a week after school when they take the compost from the bins in the cafeteria and carry it to the composting bin located outside of the school. They also take with them a gallon of water and shredded paper so there are carbon components to compost. 

School staff have encouraged the club’s effort. Morning announcements over the school’s intercom encouraged students to throw their organic lunch scraps in the bright red composting bins. Some announcements signed off with a fun take on composting.

“What did the composting rapper say?

Break it down now y’all!”

A red compost bin and Joel Barlow High School

The club also started a hydroponics program where they plant lettuce seeds. Once lettuce is grown the students donate it to the cafeteria as well as selling bamboo utensils to the student body. 

Manayath is aware of how humans affect our environment and how much waste we produce on a daily basis.

His parents are from India. When he visited India over time, he realized how wasteful Americans can be and wanted to make a difference.

 “When I went to visit India it was completely different. I was just blown away by how much more eco-friendly they are there and it really touched me,” he said.

“I think both of us really care about the environment and it’s an issue that we need to be focusing on,” said Gutowski. 

Outside of Joel Barlow, Manayath and Gutowski have begun to collaborate with the Easton Garden Club and the Easton Public Library to discuss ways to accelerate local change and help lower our carbon footprint. 

“Some of the best things can come from local solutions,” said Gutowski.

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